Measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have brought widespread disruption to normal crew change operations, with many seafarers prevented from disembarking or joining their vessels.
Ashan Welagedara, Director of GAC Shipping Ltd Sri Lanka, presents his guide to the current status of crew changes in the country including: where they may be conducted; what restrictions are in place; what requirements must be met; and how many changes GAC Sri Lanka has handled to date.
What challenges and restrictions do shipowners/operators face when arranging crew changes in Sri Lanka, and how have your local contacts helped to ease the situation?
The main challenge is finding flight connections and long transits. GAC Sri Lanka has helped by providing updates on any local charter flights available and schedules of flights arriving in Colombo.
How many crew change operations have you successfully executed since COVID-19 lockdowns started?
We conducted an emergency crew sign-off from two vessels at Colombo, including medical evacuation of a passenger.
We also handled a bulk crew change using exclusive chartered flights in Colombo & Galle. During the past two months, we have conducted three such operations with a total crew transfer of 116 foreign seafarers.
A further 230+ foreign crew were handled for sign on/off at Galle OPL during the past three months using commercial/ consolidated charter flights.
There is great uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic; how long it will last, and what it’s impact will be. How are you managing this from a crew change and lay-ups perspective? As hard as it is to predict, what are your expectations for the coming months?
Government restrictions on crew changes are imposed unexpectedly and we have to comply with the restrictions at short notice to protect our country’s interests whilst minimizing the risk to the public. Against that scenario, we endeavour to continue to provide clients with the best possible services, including prompt updates on this turbulent situation.