Singapore has cracked down on several local shipping agencies after it emerged that the results of tests for the presence of Covid-19 among seafarers had allegedly been subjected to tampering.

Since early July, an unspecified number of companies have either been suspended or banned from carrying out further crew-change applications.

The Maritime Port Authority (MPA) said there had recently been another case where a crew member who joined a vessel in Singapore tested positive for Covid-19.

The maritime regulator said it has been “actively monitoring” polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results conducted at the joiner’s departure country.

“These results are being scrutinised as the MPA has noticed that some have been either altered or tampered with,” the agency said.

A PCR test is said to be the recommended diagnostic test for people with symptoms of Covid-19 according to current test criteria.

“All vessel owners, operators and manning offices are reminded to strictly comply with the crew-change regulations as any non-compliance may result in both the vessel’s owner and their appointed local agency being either suspended or banned from making future crew-change applications,” the MPA said.

Fresh cases

In a note to members, the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) said that in the past week, there have been “fresh cases of crew arriving in Singapore with Covid-19 symptoms” and eventually testing positive for the disease.

“Alarmingly the crews, upon arrival, projected severe high temperatures, which also prompted further actions in contact tracing. This has led to some 15 to 20 other persons having to be contacted and quarantined for further checks,” the group said.

The SSA claims there is a “clear and present pattern” whereby seafarers and crew and manning companies are “not taking seriously” the protocol of self-imposed isolation (minimum of 14 days) when being rostered for crew change.

The association urged the shipping community to “exercise rigour and due diligence” in ensuring the rostered crews observed a self-isolation period.

The SSA warned that continued incidences of crews who test positive for Covid-19 could lead to a complete shutdown of crew changes in Singapore.

“Singapore currently does not allow any returning of short-term pass holders back in Singapore, but crew changes are a concession given to the industry as Singapore recognises the importance and our responsibility as an international maritime centre,” the group said.

Between 27 March and the end of June, the MPA approved more than 13,000 crew changes involving some 650 companies and 1,150 ships.