To support safe crew changes and the shipping companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, SOS will be setting aside more than S$1.5million to help defray the cost of accommodation and meals for seafarers staying at the Seacare Hotel, one of the designated holding facilities to accommodate signing on/off crew in the port of Singapore.
Shipping companies participating in the Seacare Sailors’ Home Scheme (SSS) can utilise the SSS e-vouchers to redeem full board accommodation at the Seacare Hotel. SOS will double the e-voucher entitlements of each qualified shipping company during this period. For shipping companies that do not have collective bargaining agreements with SOS, SOS will sponsor three meals daily for their crew housed at the Seacare Hotel.
Mr Kam Soon Huat, SOS President, said: “Seacare, as a co-operative set up by a seafarers’ union, knows what it takes to look after the welfare of seafarers. Seacare Hotel is a natural choice because the maritime industry knows that the hotel is for seafarers. We want to show our appreciation to seafarers who are the essential frontline workers and encourage the shipping companies during these challenging times. The enhancement of the Seacare Sailors Home Scheme is our way of saying that we are in this together.”
In the spirit of solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic, SOS is setting aside more than S$1.5m to support safe crew change and help shipping companies defray the cost of accommodation and meals at the Seacare Hotel.
The Seacare Hotel is one of the two facilities designated by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to accommodate crew who are unable to transfer directly to his/her vessel or flight and require a temporary rest area of up to 48 hours.
Out of concern for the crews’ welfare during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SOS leadership unanimously supported the initiative to go the extra mile to offer practical help to seafarers who need to be changed over to and from the ships.
During this time, SOS doubled the e-voucher entitlements of each eligible shipping company participating in the Seacare Sailors’ Home Scheme (SSS). The SSS e-vouchers can be used to redeem full board accommodation at the Seacare Hotel. For shipping companies that do not have collective bargaining agreements with SOS, the Union sponsors three free meals daily for their crew housed at the Seacare Hotel.
“We want to show our appreciation to seafarers who are the essential frontline workers during this challenging time. SOS also wants to reduce the financial burden of shipping companies. The enhancement of the Seacare Sailors Home Scheme is our way of showing that we are in this together,” said SOS President Kam Soon Huat.
“Seacare, as a co-operative set up by SOS, knows what it takes to look after the seafarers. The Seacare Hotel is a natural choice because the maritime industry knows that the hotel is for seafarers,” Brother Kam said this about the 101-room hotel.
As of 17 June 2020, there are more than 100 shipping companies with valid SOS Collective Bargaining Agreements and the majority of them participate in the Seacare Sailors’ Home Scheme.
“As many seafarers serving onboard vessels have worked several months beyond their contracts, we strongly encourage shipping companies to expedite crew changes and to take this opportunity to utilise the SSS e-vouchers at the Seacare Hotel to accommodate the seafarers,” Brother Kam urged.
One of the first few seafarers who sought rest at the Seacare Hotel was Ordinary Seaman Carlos who had a nine-month contract sailing on board a vessel managed by Anglo-Eastern. Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions and stringent safety measures, Carlos had to stay onboard the vessel for another month before he could sign off and be repatriated back to the Philippines.
I am looking forward to spending my time with my family whom I haven’t seen for 10 months. I am grateful that my company has arranged for me to stay at the Seacare Hotel. It is comfortable, safe and nice.
Suneth Brian Pinto, a wiper, was also on a nine-month contract and could only sign-off a month later when the crew change issues were straightened out.
“I felt a little stressed and bored being stuck on board for longer than the contract period. The wait to be signed off and uncertainty was starting to take a toll on me and the crew members. I will fly back to India and be quarantined for 14 days before I can see my family. I am unsure what lies ahead in terms of contract assignments after this. I can only hope for the best.”
For Babu Singh, a wiper, he was just grateful to be sailing again. He flew in from New Delhi on 6 July 2020 after going without pay for eight months. He last signed off in October 2019.
“A lot of work went into preparing for the crew change. I thank everyone for making it possible. Even arranging for me to stay at the Seacare Hotel before I joined the ship.”
We are committed to ensuring crew changes happen, and have taken a lead in bringing our overdue crew members home while signing on joiners waiting to earn again. It is necessary, both on humanitarian grounds and for reasons of safety, in addition to keeping global supply chains moving. Seafarers are key workers.
– Anglo-Eastern Management
For Capt Simrandeep Singh Gill, Master on Southern Star managed by Thome Offshore, he too was appreciative of all the work that went into facilitating a safe crew change.
Since there was no available flight out of India, shipping companies banded together to arrange for a chartered flight for seafarers like Capt Simrandeep to fly from Delhi to Doha, and then a regular commercial flight from Doha to Singapore. He had to do a COVID-19 swab test within 48 hours before departure and get a fit-to travel certification issued by a doctor.
Upon arrival on 1 July 2020, Capt Simrandeep checked into Seacare Hotel to have a good night’s rest before going onboard for a two-month sail.
“The arrangements done by Thome Offshore for the joining crew at Singapore were very meticulously handled. Owing to this crew change being done for the first time amidst the ongoing global pandemic, there were concerns and requirements which were addressed by Thome Offshore in close coordination with MPA, Directorate General of Shipping, India, and joining seafarers.
I would like to thank Thome Offshore Crewing, MPA, and SOS for carrying out the crew change in a safe and efficient manner taking into consideration all safety measures required towards the prevention of COVID-19.”
Capt Simrandeep’s last sign-off was in January 2020 and he was due to sail again in March. “Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, I had to stay home. Though the quality time with my family was great, I am glad to be able to start work again after a three-month delay.”
As one of the first vessels to crew change under the new regime, we did encounter several teething problems and we are grateful to Thome Agency and MPA for working constructively with us to resolve these. We also want to thank the staff of the Seacare Hotel for taking such good care of our crew under difficult circumstances.
– Thome Offshore Management