The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has warned the industry to adhere to crew change protocols after details emerged of further abuses of the system.

The trade association said the “irresponsible actions of a small minority” could potentially lead to the shutdown of crew change processes at important shipping hubs.

TradeWinds reported on Wednesday that the results of some tests for the presence of Covid-19 among seafarers had allegedly been subjected to tampering.

Singapore’s Maritime Port Authority (MPA) said several shipping agencies had been suspended or banned from carrying out further crew change applications as a result.

It has since emerged that there has been an increasing number of breaches of the protocol of self-imposed isolation — a minimum of 14 days — when seafarers are rostered for crew changes.

The MPA said these breaches included sign-on crew starting their travel to Singapore on the 13th or 14th day of their self-isolation periods.

Some sign-on crews are also reported to be leaving their place of residence to do “non-essential activities” such as shifting cars, shopping and dining out.

'Serious' risk to public health

Guy Platten of the ICS says the vast majority of shipowners are going to 'extraordinary lengths' to repatriate crew safely. Photo: Oscar May/Marine Money

The MPA also claimed that some sailors have failed to avoid interaction with household members during the isolation period and failed to isolate in an individual room and use a dedicated toilet.

“The examples are contraventions of our requirements and [pose] a serious risk to the public health of Singapore,” it said in a circular.

The maritime regulator warned that any breach of Singapore’s requirements and procedures could lead to the suspension of crew change applications for guilty companies or the industry as a whole.

“These regretful instances of non-compliance are putting the industry at risk of severe setbacks to the positive progress made prior. The industry cannot afford to lose the faith and support of governments,” the ICS said.

More than 500,000 seafarers are affected by the crew change crisis, with 250,000 trapped at sea.

ICS secretary general Guy Platten was quick to point out that “the vast majority” of shipowners were going to “extraordinary lengths” to repatriate crew safely.

“However, it’s undeniable that shipmanagers and crewing agents who do not follow the protocol guidance are risking the safety of our seafarers and those around them,” he said.

“The very reason these protocols where produced [was] to ensure that crew change can be undertaken safely, minimising the risk of transmission to seafarers and the public alike.”