Europe still open to seafarers

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Seafarers around the world can still travel to Europe to join vessels – even from countries facing fresh Covid-19 outbreaks such as India, where daily cases hit more than 300,000 in mid-May.

“Getting seafarers into or out of Europe isn’t a problem at the moment,” said Peter Smit, Co-CEO of Boers Crew Services, the Netherlands-based shipping crew transport services operator for Northern Europe.

“If a seafarer flies from, say, Manila into Amsterdam, we can get them to the port for a crew change. They will, of course, need to be tested for Covid-19 and most likely be quarantined in a hotel. But if the test result comes back negative, it’s no problem for them to join the vessel.”

Mr Smit, whose company helps transport shipping crewmembers to and from ports in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, added that the same process applies to seafarers who want to fly out of Europe after leaving their ship. “It’s almost the same procedure, only a quarantined stay in a hotel isn’t, in most cases, necessary.”

While getting seafarers into Europe remains relatively straightforward, carrying out crew changes is proving more difficult, according to Mr Smit.

“We haven’t had to change much in terms of how we operate, but it is definitely more complicated to arrange a crew change in Europe, because of the rules put in place by immigration and health authorities,” he said.

“Seafarers from most non-Schengen areas need a Schengen visa, but with some of the embassies closed because of Covid-19, we can arrange visas on arrival when entering Europe.

“We also have situations where the rules and regulations for seafarers arriving at one port in the Schengen area are different to another port in the same country. That means we must be flexible and find a solution when arranging a crew change in The Netherlands, Belgium or Germany.”