Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19), AKA: 2019-nCov, 2019 Novel Coronavirus, illustrated by US CDC

The maritime world is going into deep shock!

The fact that most seafarers are toiling out of sight makes them particularly vulnerable, more so in this time without precedent. Book ended by the brutal Saudi Arabia – Russia oil price war, and the COVID19 pandemic and its economical impacts, professional seafarers are going to find themselves considerably challenged in the near future.

In my view, the disastrous response by the cruise industry to COVID19 pandemic lays bare the vulnerability of shipping to the Flag of Convenience regime; and its inherent tax and social responsibility stances, which holds at the heart of their operations the attitude that profits are more important than lives. This attitude crossed over from seafarers to the public realm quite dramatically in my view, with the catastrophic handling of the COVID19 by cruise lines.

Of course seafarers on the cruise liners by all accounts were the most vulnerable and most dedicated to duty, as most seafarers are. So kudos to them and their tireless work.

Now they face massive layoffs, as do the offshore oil sector, and probably many more due to the global economic meltdown that is sure to follow. I assume this will endanger shipping, and its seafarers, leading to a rise of crew abandonment and the usual nefarious tactics subjected onto seafarers, not to mention the mental trauma we will all collectively feel. I can’t feel but empathy for my peers, waiting on so many ships at distant anchorages, with the thought of their families at home, facing their own isolation.

Here, I am back onboard myself despite having had plans to reacquaint myself with “holidays”; luckily I did not have plans to travel, but rather spend time with my family at home, on Canada’s west coast, so the impact to me, us, is minimal compared to my peers.

For those of us seafarers, stuck onboard now, the COVID19 pandemic has caught us a bit off guard. The government of Canada, and Transport Canada has been very active in marshaling policies and directive to alleviate the impacts of this rapidly developing crisis. As most seafarers are such a central part of the back bone of the economy, I though it may be a good time to study up and take notice of the developments ashore.


Get informed

First off; if you have not done so already, sign up for CMAC mailing list. I am not sure how exactly I did that in the past, but it seems to be the best way to get first hand information directly from the source, quickly and easily. Incidentally, this is not really what I imagine the CMAC mailing list was for, but in the absence of a dedicated Transport Canada mailing list for seafarers, I recommend you to sign up to it.

You can do that by sending a request to sign up to CMAC Secretariat / Secrétariat du CCMC by email at [email protected].

They ask that in your email to them, you list:

  • First and Last Name
  • Work title (if applicable)
  • Name of the company you work for (if applicable)
  • Complete physical mailing address of the company you work for (including postal code) (if applicable):

And you will be added to the CMAC Distribution list.

TCMS offices and events

Transport Canada Offices – I contacted the Victoria Transport Canada Marine Safety office and they had no directive to close, as of late last week. However Transport Canada public functions, such as CMAC, and the Fatigue Seminars have been cancelled or postponed. If you were planning to attend a TC event, check if it is actually happening.

The CIMarE – Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering’s – annual MariTech Conference and Exhibition, scheduled for April 2020 in Halifax, has been postponed, and will instead occur in 2021.

Internationally, similar fate has most likely befallen all marine conferences such as Posidonia (Postponed till October 2020), so check the one your were planning to attend.

Update: March 25, 2020, TC issued Ship Safety Bulletin 08/2020 on access to counter service at Transport Canada Marine Safety offices across Canada. Essentially, “call in” instead of coming in, as services will be limited. If you need anything marine related, call; if not able to handle your request by email or phone, they will set up and appointment to see you.

Ticket expiring?

If your Transport Canada certificate of competency, proficiency or seafarer medical was to expire before September 01, 2020, you have been automatically granted a six month extension, on its date of expiration.

See Transport Canada Ship Safety Bulletin 03/2020 issued on March 16, 2020

Travel: crew changes, technicians, etc

Quarantine / isolation policies and travel restrictions are getting tighter in all countries. All non essential travel, but specifically across borders, is forbidden, for April 2020, at a minimum. Seafarers have been deemed essential workers by the Canadian federal government. Therefore, in an effort to support crucial supply chains, Canadian seafarers are free to move between the US border unrestricted. All crews, technicians, and agents supporting shipping, both domestic and international, are free to travel in the course of their work. Generally, all seafarers already carry proof, if you do not, consider getting something in writing from your company before venturing out.

See Transport Canada Ship Safety Bulletin 07/2020 issued on March 21, 2020, and Bulletin 06/2020 issued March 19, 2020.

Travel between Canadian jurisdiction, such as Newfoundland, is also subject to further restrictions, best to consult your local area’s Chief Medical Officers’ recommendations. Of course, all travel is off the table if you display any symptoms of COVID19.

Cruise Ship ban

Coming into force June 30, 2020; but effective as of March 18, 2020, “Regulations Maintaining the Safety of Persons in Ports and the Seaway” decrees that all cruise ships with a capacity of 500 passenger or more, are banned from all Canadian ports, and the St Lawrence Seaway.

See Transport Canada Ship Safety Bulletin 05/2020 issued on March 19, 2020, also see TC’s engagement website.

Shore Leave

Transport Canada reminds that Canadian and international seafarers are not to be restricted from accessing shore leave at any Canadian port and terminal facilities. There are some caveats, such as any seafarer displaying symptoms of COVID19, which will trigger response by local health officials. But generally, no Canadian facility can deny shore leave to seafarers.

See Transport Canada Ship Safety Bulletin 04/2020 issued on March 18, 2020

Your health, and those around you

The federal government has an online self assessment tool for COVID19. Try it out before signing on your ship.

As seafarers, we work in high risk environment, surrounded by dangers all the time, and microbiological ones, are not different or new to us.

Take care of yourself. Many people depend on you!

Wash your hands regularly, restrict your contact with others, especially those that enter our small shipboard community, the pilot, agent, terminal people. Make sure you wear gloves and clean frequently the common surfaces every one touches; pay attention to disinfecting the radio from shores, tools, paperwork, sample bottles, etc.

Don’t rely on rumors and hysteria, keep calm and collected, as we are professionals and a great deal of people rely on us, even if they don’t know it. This crisis is moving fast, and it’s response to it, seems even faster; I suggest these sites for the most up to date information.

Transport Canada and Australian Marine Safety certified Marine Engineer, over 25 years experience sailing professionally on commercial ships all over the world. Creator and editor of Father of three, based in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

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