Unions, employers to ensure Pilipino seafarers are COVID-free

The International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Maritime Employers’ Council have launched an enhanced quarantine and testing program in Manila.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) have launched an enhanced quarantine and testing program in Manila, with the aim of getting more Filipino seafarers to-and-from ships amidst a global crew change crisis by addressing the concerns governments have in regard to minimizing the spread of the pandemic.

Launched on 28 October, the program consists of:

  • 300 secure isolation rooms contracted at two hotels in Manila;
  • 24/7 security and monitoring to ensure 14-day quarantine;
  • arrival and pre-embarkation gold-standard PCR testing of seafarers;
  • secure certification of test results using blockchain tamper-proof technology;
  • secure transit to airports in groups no more than five (including driver);
  • seeking partnership with governments and their immigration and port authorities to recognize test result certificates, to reduce unnecessary quarantining time and improve the volume of crew change.

The facilities and process will be audited by independent third party auditors before being admitted to the so called “White List” and subjected to regular periodical audits to ensure continued compliance.

IMEC Chair Capt Belal Ahmed said the program came together initially after employers and unions understood that more practical solutions were needed that addressed concerns raised by a number of crew change hubs over the authenticity of COVID negative tests obtained in the Philippines and over the efficacy of pre-embarkation quarantine processes used by seafarers looking to join ships.

“We felt there had to be a technology and process solution to be able to say to countries: ‘the seafarer has done their quarantine in a managed and monitored environment, here is their negative test: now please let them get on with their job’. This new program means we will be able to say that with confidence.

“We have had input from software developers who have provided blockchain technology to make the COVID PCR test result certificates tamper-proof.  The quarantine facility follows strict guidelines under Singapore’s SHN (Stay Home Notice) rules. This is fundamental to ensure the crew remain COVID-19 free for at least 14 days before they join the ship.”

For now, the program and places at its facilities are only open to IMEC members.  The project is also cooperating with a similar program set up by the Norwegian Shipowners Association that was launched at the beginning of the month and which utilizes the same hotel.

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