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Singapore: MPA issues circular updating crew change procedures for cargo ships

20 Jan 2021

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Tuesday (19 January) issued a marine circular updating its crew change procedures for cargo ships to safeguard against Covid-19:

MPA will continue to consider the following circumstances for crew change applications:

  • crew whose employment contract has expired;
  • additional crew on board whose sign-off would not affect the safe manning of the ship;
  • change of crew due to the sale or purchase of ship;
  • personnel who are not part of the ship’s crew such as superintendents and service engineers;
  • compassionate grounds e.g. death of family member; or
  • If the crew is no longer medically fit to work onboard the ship.

The requirements for signing-on and -off in Singapore are as follows:


  • In general, all signing-on crew are required to serve 14-day Stay-Home- Notice (SHN) in the crew’s originating country/region in the period immediately prior to his/her departure flight/ferry to Singapore. The crew should be completely isolated in a room with a dedicated toilet with strictly no interaction with others (including family members) at his/her place of residence, or serve the SHN in a dedicated facility/hotel.
  • Crew from specific low risk countries/regions will either no longer be required to serve the SHN or serve a shorter SHN of 7 days in his/her originating country/region prior to departure for Singapore. Please refer to  ICA’s website (https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/files/SHN-and-swab summary.pdf) for the latest list of low risk countries/regions.
  • The crew must have a negative result from a COVID-19 test (polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type) taken at a government-approved or ISO 15189- accredited testing facility at his/her originating country not more than 72 hours prior to departure for Singapore.
  • The crew must be certified fit-to-travel by a doctor at his/her originating country not more than 24 hours prior to departure for Singapore.
  • During the entire crew change process, including during the journey to Singapore, the crew should not be in a group of more than five (5) persons, and must remain in the same group. There must be no interactions between groups.
  • The crew should only join his/her ship not more than two (2) days before the ship’s final departure from Singapore. Ships departing for sea trial and returning to Singapore is not considered final departure.
  • Crew shall only join the ship in Singapore after all high-risk* shore-based personnel have completed their work on board and disembarked the ship.
  • Crew who have recovered from COVID-19 must submit documentary proof of his/her past diagnosis of COVID-19 based on the earliest positive PCR test result.

o   If the date of the positive PCR test result is 21 days or fewer before the date of arrival in Singapore, he/she will not be approved for crew change.

o   If the date of the positive PCR test result is between 22 to 180 days before the date of arrival in Singapore, the recovered crew need not serve the SHN at his/her originating country/region nor take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours before departure for Singapore. If he/she develops symptoms prior to departing for Singapore, he/she must be tested for COVID-19.

o   If the positive PCR test result is more than 180 days before the date of arrival in Singapore, he/she must serve a 14-day SHN at his/her originating country and take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours before departure for Singapore.


  • The crew must not have gone ashore in the last 21 days before disembarking the ship, must have remained well and not had contact with any known or suspect case of COVID-19 throughout that period.
  • The crew shall refrain from interacting with shore-based personnel at previous ports of call in the last 21 days.
  • The crew must be certified fit-to-travel by a doctor in Singapore not more than 24 hours before disembarking the ship.
  • Crew subjected to serology test shall remain onboard until production of a negative COVID-19 serology test result.

* High-risk shore-based personnel are persons that interact closely with ship crew in an enclosed space on board such as repair vendors, equipment service providers and superintendents.

Designated crew change holding facilities in Singapore

Sign-on and sign-off crew may stay at designated holding facilities for up to 72 hours. Please refer to Annex A for details of the designated holding facilities.

CrewSafe accredited facility

The Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience Fund Taskforce (SFTF) has developed a CrewSafe audit programme that endeavours to assist crew source nations to bring a higher level of confidence and quality control checks into crew change processes such as quarantine/holding, medical and swabbing facilities. Please refer to this link for more information regarding the CrewSafe audit programme and a list of CrewSafe accredited facilities.

For sign-on crew who undergo the protocol under these CrewSafe accredited facilities located overseas, his/her crew change application may be given the following concessions:

  • Submission of crew change application must be made at least 7 days in advance, instead of 14 days.
  • If a sign-on crew undergoing the CrewSafe protocol is cancelled, direct replacement for this crew will be allowed if the replacement has been undergoing CrewSafe protocol for the same required duration, instead of having to re-submit a new application and re-start the process.
  • At Singapore, sign-on crew who had undergone the CrewSafe protocol may stay at the designated holding facilities for up to 5 days (instead of 3 days), if required.

Holding areas at Marina South Pier and West Coast Pier

All crew that utilises Marina South Pier (MSP) or West Coast Pier (WCP) shall remain at the designated holding areas while waiting to clear immigration. Should the holding area be full, the crew shall remain in their private transportation.

For sign-off crew, the private transportation shall be ready and waiting so that the crew can depart MSP/WCP immediately upon clearing immigration and do not need to crowd up the holding area.

Agents and appointed drivers are responsible to ensure that the crew remain in the holding area or private vehicle at all times. At no time should the crew be loitering outside the holding area and interacting with the general public.

Precautionary measures for service providers facilitating crew change

Service providers that facilitate crew change in Singapore shall comply with the minimum level of personal protective equipment (PPE) as follows:

  • Meet-and-greet staff shall don surgical mask and gloves when escorting crew at the airport.
  • Land transport drivers shall don full PPE (N95 mask, gloves, gown) when transporting crew between the airport and vessel.
  • Launch boat operators shall down full PPE (N95 mask, gloves, gown) when transporting crew between the pier and vessel.

The agent shall charter a dedicated launch boat for conveyance of sign-on/off crew between the pier and vessel. No other personnel (e.g. boarding agents, technicians) shall be taking the same launch boat as the sign-on/off crew.

Land transport drivers shall carry out the following after each trip of ferrying sign-on/sign-off crew:

  • Open all windows and doors to air the vehicle.
  • Disinfect the passenger seats and luggage area.
    Likewise, for launch boat operators, general cleaning of the boat shall be carried out after each trip of ferrying sign-on/off crew.

Precautionary measures for crew during flights

In view of the recent increase of occasions where ship crew are categorised as close contacts due to being on the same flight as a COVID-19 infected person, it is recommended that ship crew don full PPE (inclusive of gown, N95 mask and gloves) when travelling to Singapore.


Ship owners/managers/agents must apply for crew change in Singapore by filling up the online form at here.

MPA urges ship owners/managers/agents to submit applications at least 14 days before the planned crew change, especially if the application includes sign-on crew. For foreign-flagged ships, crew change will be considered if the ship meets all prevailing requirements, and is in Singapore for cargo operations, bunkering and/or other marine services.

For crew changes to take place safely, MPA continues to expect all owners, agents, ships and individuals to ensure that the COVID-19 preventive measures are followed strictly. Any breach will be taken seriously.

Any queries relating to this circular should be directed to crew_change@mpa.gov.sg.

Note: A link to the original post on the MPA website is available here


Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 20 January, 2021

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