Dubai allows crew changes to resume in all ports and anchorage areas

The UAE was one of 13 countries that agreed to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers during a recent summit

General view of a stock yard of DP World's fully automated Terminal 2 at Jebel Ali Port in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 27, 2018. Picture taken December 27, 2018. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed
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Dubai will allow changes of crew to resume across all of the emirate's ports and anchorage areas after the coronavirus crisis temporarily blocked vessels from docking at UAE ports.

The resumption is being allowed on the condition that vessels comply with Covid-19 guidelines and requirements set by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) said in a statement on Thursday.

"We will set clear and strict guidelines to govern the change in marine crew members, in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of the Dubai Health Authority and the emirate's Covid-19 precautionary measures," Mohammad Al Bastaki, director of the marine anchorage operations department at DMCA, said.
The move comes after 13 countries, including the UAE, pledged to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers during a summit hosted by the UK on July 9.

The commitment was signed by Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE, UK and the US.

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, travel restrictions and border closures imposed by governments around the world have caused major hurdles to crew changes, leaving hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships or unable to join vessels.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that at least 200,000 seafarers worldwide are stranded on ships and require immediate repatriation, and a similar number urgently need to join ships to replace them.

This growing humanitarian dilemma has led to additional concerns that seafarer fatigue and mental health issues may lead to serious maritime accidents, the IMO said. There are also concerns about the continuity of the global supply chain.

"It is time to act for seafarers," IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim said in a statement on July 9. "Safe ship operations and crew well-being should not be compromised. The humanitarian crisis seafarers face has implications for all of us, for the world economy and for the safety of life at sea and the environment."

Dubai's move to allow the change of ship crew members in ports and anchorage areas within its territorial waters follows the completion of a national disinfection programme.

All agents are required to co-ordinate with the DMCA and other relevant UAE authorities to ensure the quick processing of crew transfers from ships to airports and vice versa, the DMCA said.

"All agents are urged to undergo the required medical examinations in compliance with the preventive procedures and guidelines for the Covid-19 virus to preserve the health and safety of both ship crew and relevant personnel," the DMCA said.

The move comes after the DMCA issued a resolution directing the resumption of maritime operations across Dubai's anchorage areas, which is aimed at allowing ships located in the emirate's territorial waters to have access to a diverse range of services, including maintenance and repair, subject to obtaining the proper permits from the DMCA and other relevant authorities.

Dubai also opened its airport to international tourists on July 7 as it sought to revive its vital tourism sector after more than four months of closure to curb the spread of the virus.