COVID-19 and Crew Changes at South African Ports

The South African Department of Transport has today issued amended directions to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 at sea ports.

In accordance with the amended directions, foreign crew changes may now take place, but only at the ports of Cape Town and Durban, under the following conditions:

(a) a request for crew changes must be completed by a shipping company or its representative on a form which corresponds substantially with Form A to the amended directions and which is submitted at least 96 hours (four days) prior to the crew change, to the Department of Transport;

(b) the form referred to in (a) above must be accompanied by a detailed crew list which also specifies the signing-on crew and signing-off crew;

(c) the crew must comply with all the travel requirements and health protocols at ports of entry;

(d) crew changes may take place in port and off port limits;

(e) signing-on crew may directly transit from the airport to board the vessel, provided that if a layover is necessary, the crew must be quarantined as per the Port Health Protocol at the employer’s cost and the name of the quarantine facility must be specified in the form referred to in (a) above;

(f) signing-on and signing-off crew may only in exceptional circumstances be permitted to layover.

Although the directions are not entirely clear in this regard, it appears that cruise ships are still prohibited from calling at any of the South Africa ports, save for the disembarkation of returning South African crew or South African citizens or holders or permanent residence permits. Signing-off crew may disembark at the ports of Cape Town and Durban and directly transit to the airport.

A copy of the amended directions, including Form A, is attached.

Local ship’s agents have advised that while the restrictions on crew changes have been lifted, international air travel is still restricted, although there are some “special” repatriation flights on an ad hoc basis. It may therefore be difficult to facilitate crew changes given the ongoing restrictions on international air travel.

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