The Philippines is trying to position itself as a crew change hub, adding three more ports along with Manila where ships can get seafarers on and off. The ports of Panila, Capinpin and Subic Bay have all been given the green light to become crew change locations. Other ports including Cebu, Davao and Batangas are likely to get approval to carry out international crew changes soon.
It is my hope for the Philippines to become a major international hub for crew change
“It is my hope for the Philippines to become a major international hub for crew change,” transportation secretary Arthur Tugade said yesterday.
Filipinos account for the largest share of seafarers in the world.
“By becoming a crew change capital of the world, we would not only prime up our seafaring and maritime industry. We also expect to boost our hospitality industry,” Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Jay Daniel Santiago said.
Qatar Airways has said this month it has the capacity to fly three times daily to destinations across the Philippines, but is awaiting approval from Manila to get the extra flight slots.
In the last four months, a total of 734 ships docked or anchored in the Port of Manila for the purposes of crew change.
Japanese shipping lines have been the quickest to use the Philippines’ established green lane protocols for crew change. Japan relies on Filipinos for approximately 75% of its crewing needs.
On July 2 the government in in Manila created a green lane for seafarers to finally speed up crew repatriation during the coronavirus pandemic.
The joint circular for the Philippine Green Lane provides safe and swift disembarkation and crew change during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as aiming to prevent the spread of Covid-19 for both Filipino and foreign seafarers whether inbound, outbound or transiting.
The country was one of just 13 to sign up last month to new international measures to open up foreign borders for seafarers and increase the number of commercial flights to expedite repatriation efforts following an international crew change summit convened by the UK.
Dario Alampay, chairman of the Joint Manning Group based in Manila, wrote to Splash earlier this month outlining global solutions to fix the current seafarer travel impasse that has left 300,000 crew stranded at sea thanks to Covid-19 restrictions.
The Joint Manning Group is composed of the five leading manning associations in the Philippines.
Alampay is calling for a global approach to have all seafarers of all nationalities adopt a common digital quarantine pass recorded via blockchain as well as a seamless contact tracing system.
Once the different countries agree on and implement a common protocol, it will give airlines and ports confidence in allowing crew changes.