Thousands of seafarers are due to exchange on vessels anchored off Dubai’s coast as maritime activity in the emirate slowly returns to its pre-pandemic pace.
Crews stuck onboard shipping tankers for months longer than their contracts stipulated are now free to return home as replacement sailors are sent to waiting container ships.
About 3,000 seafarers registered within Dubai waters had been caught up in Covid-19 border closures that brought summer shipping operations to a grinding halt.
Of those, 1,300 sailors awaiting sign-off from their companies can now start planning to go home.
“Increased activities of changing crews within the territorial waters reflect the growing confidence in Dubai’s leadership in the global maritime map,” said Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed, executive director of Dubai Maritime City Authority.
“The emirate has provided all the means of guarantee to assist the sailors held due to the exceptional global circumstances associated with Covid-19.
“The resumption of the marine crew change operations comes from our constant efforts to guarantee the highest levels of health, safety and security of seafarers, visitors and workers within the maritime sector.”
All maritime agencies have an obligation to test departing and arriving crew for Covid-19.
International charities claimed as many as 200,000 seafarers around the globe had been either abandoned or delayed from coming ashore since the pandemic emerged.
While the imposition of travel restrictions slowed the spread of the virus, it caused many workers to become trapped at sea.
Some had been offshore for more than a year and were due to come home days after restrictions were enforced.
Allowing thousands of crew to now changeover is also a sign that economic activity is starting to recover.
“The move has proved to be a strong boost to national efforts to revitalise the economic movement in the post-corona period,” Sheikh Saeed said.
“It prompts us to continue providing the necessary facilities for the return of marine activities while following strict precautionary measures that ensure the change of ship crew members and managing its operations are conducted with full efficiency.”