COVID -19 - Norwegian Protocols with Regards to Crew Change on Ships (30 October 2020)

Covid -19 - Norwegian protocols with regards to crew change on ships

This document outlines Norwegian protocols with regards to crew change on ships for foreign nationals signing on or off in Norway.

The document was prepared by the Norwegian Maritime Authority.

The reader should pay attention to the rapidly changing nature of the situation and relevant regulations. Referenced online resources in the document should be consulted for up to date information.
The Norwegian Maritime Authority assesses current regulations to be in line with the IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, effectively recognising seafarers as key workers and allowing crew change to be completed.

Changes

Revision

Published

Changes

1

15.6.2020

 

2

08.10.2020

Update after changes in national legislation (covid-19-regulation) in effect 14.9.2020.

3

30.10.2020

Update after changes in national legislation (covid-19-regulation) in effect 27.10.20 and 30.10.20.

 Quarantine requirements

The Norwegian quarantine regulations differ between quarantine after international travel and quarantine after close contact/proximity of a confirmed case.

Regulations described below regarding quarantine are applicable to seafarers signing on/off via mainland Norway. There are separate regulations for the Svalbard and Jan Mayen islands.

The general rule is that all persons entering Norway from an area subject to quarantine should undergo 10 days of quarantine either at home or in a suitable location.

A complete list of areas that are subject to quarantine is available in appendix A to the COVID-19-regulations: https://lovdata.no/dokument/SF/forskrift/2020-03-27-470/ (only available in Norwegian). 

Certain areas in EEA/Switzerland with a high infection rate are may alternative 1 described in paragraph 1.2 below.  

Any period spent outside these areas immediately before entering Norway may be subtracted from the quarantine period.

All persons that have been in close contact with a person with confirmed SARS CoV-2 must be in quarantine for 10 days. More information on requirements and protocols is available here: https://helsenorge.no/coronavirus/quarantine-and-isolation.

Exemption from quarantine after close contact may only be granted to safeguard life and health and is generally not applicable to seafarers.

Legal references (in Norwegian):

 Signing on in Norway after international trip

Seafarers joining or leaving a vessel and holding seaman’s identity card issued in accordance with ILO Convention No. 108 or ILO Convention No. 185, are exempt from visa requirements and entry restrictions. In addition, there is a bilateral agreement for Philippine nationals. 

Up to 15 days of transit is accepted (awaiting vessel or transport).
Legal references (mostly in Norwegian):

 Exemptions from quarantine

Legal reference (in Norwegian): Covid-19-forskriften, § 6. Fellesregler for personer unntatt karanteneplikt

Persons who are exempt from quarantine should, as far as possible, avoid close contact with others during what would have been a quarantine period. 

Any exemption from quarantine is not applicable if the seafarer develops symptoms of acute respiratory infection such as a fever, a cough, breathing difficulties, or is assessed by a doctor to be infected by SARS-CoV-2.

Alternative 1: Exemption from quarantine for seafarers by testing

Legal reference (in Norwegian): https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2020-03-27-470/§6c 
A seafarer with place of residence in EEA/Switzerland may be exempted from quarantine for work on board when:

Quarantine on leisure time on board must be maintained for the quarantine period. 

The employer must immediately notify local health authorities if any of the tests are positive. 

Alternative 2: Exemption from quarantine essential to maintain critical functions in society

Legal reference (in Norwegian): https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2020-03-27-470/§6e 
When arriving from areas that are subject to quarantine, seafarers that are essential to maintain critical functions in society may be exempted from quarantine when traveling to and from work. 

The transport of goods and passengers is identified as a critical function for society: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/tema/samfunnssikkerhet-og-beredskap/innsikt/liste-over-kritiske-samfunnsfunksjoner. 

This exemption may only be used if the personnel is essential and there is not enough time to complete the testing as outlined in alternative 1. Vessel operators shall, as far as possible, plan operations to allow crew change under alternative 1.

NMA withholds that all crew necessary to maintain the requirements set out in the vessels minimum safe manning certificate are essential in order to operate ships. Any deviation from this must be approved by vessels flag state.

Depending on operational requirements owners may assess that further personnel is essential. Such persons should carry a statement from the owner confirming that such an assessment has been made. 

This exemption is only valid for work, and the seafarer must quarantine on board outside of working hours for 10 days after signing on.

Alternative 3: exemptions for seafarers on vessels returning to Norway (§ 6a.) 

Legal reference: https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2020-03-27-470/§6a

Seafarers that have signed on in Norway are exempt from quarantine when the vessels return to Norway as long as no crew or passengers have been ashore, and no new crew or passengers have joined the vessel. Both the crew and passengers may disembark the vessel in foreign port.

Vessels may carry out ordinary cargo operations in port.

Alternative 4: exemption for frequent work-related travel between Norway and certain areas in Sweden and Finland

Legal reference: https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2020-03-27-470/§6b

Seafarers with place of domicile in areas in Sweden and Finland subject to quarantine that frequently travel to Norway are exempt from quarantine during working hours and for work related travel after a negative COVID-19 test every seventh day. The test must be taken in Norway. The employer shall organise and cover cost of testing.

 Quarantine after close contact with confirmed case

Legal references (in Norwegian): https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2020-03-27-470/§4 b) and https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2020-03-27-470/§6e.

Signing off in Norway

Persons signing off will be subject to travel quarantine if the vessel has visited an area subject to quarantine (cf. paragraph 1 in this document) during the last 10 days. 

However, there is a general exemption allowing persons subject to travel quarantine to leave the country during quarantine. Norwegian protocols regarding travel during quarantine must be followed (see paragraph 1.3 below).

Travel to/from the vessel

Seafarers that are subject to travel quarantine, regardless of exemption, may use public transportation to/from vessel and place of departure. 

A face mask must be used when travelling and in public spaces. General advice to the public regarding social distancing etc. should be followed. 

Seafarers that are subject to quarantine after close contact may only use public transportation in exceptional cases and after consulting with local health authorities.

 Protocols on board

The Norwegian Maritime Authority has published a general guide on “Risk assessment and emergency preparedness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

This is applicable to Norwegian ships, and it builds on the general framework in regulations on Working environment, health and safety of persons working on board ship. It includes provisions on risk assessment related to the safety or health of persons working on board.

The guidelines establish COVID-19 virus as a biological agent under the regulation and gives advice on practical measures on board.

Full text available in English here: https://www.sdir.no/en/news/news-from-the-nma/risk-assessment-and-emergency-preparedness-in-the-context-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/.

Further guidance may be found in industry guidelines such as ICS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers: https://www.ics-shipping.org/docs/default-source/resources/covid19-guidance-for-ship-operators-for-the-protection-of-the-health-of-seafarers-v3.pdf?sfvrsn=4. 

Legal reference: https://www.sdir.no/en/shipping/legislation/regulations/working-environment-health-and-safety-of-persons-working-on-board-ship/

 Routines on board when exempted from quarantine

Seafarers that have joined the vessel and are exempted from travel quarantine during work should, as far as possible, avoid close contact with other persons. In order to minimise risk, special consideration should be given to mealtimes and other situations where social distancing is challenging. 

Quarantine during leisure time must be maintained for 10 days.

No exemptions from quarantine are applicable if the seafarer develops symptoms of acute respiratory infection such as a fever, a cough, breathing difficulties, or is assessed by a doctor to be infected by SARS-CoV-2.

Routines on board when subject to quarantine

Seafarers that are subject to quarantine and not exempted must be quarantined for 10 days in a suitable location.

Depending on vessel type and facilities a merchant ship may be a suitable location. 
Owners must assess whether the facilities on the relevant ship are suitable and if routines may be established on board to maintain the quarantine.

If it is not possible to establish a suitable location on board, the seafarer must undergo quarantine before joining the ship.

Note that a seafarer may only commence work during quarantine if he or she is covered by one of the exemptions to quarantine outlined in paragraph 1.1.

Further note that quarantine on board is not allowed on vessels on coastal cruise in Norway, cf. paragraph 4 below.

Notification in case of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

Vessels arriving from abroad or trading in Norwegian waters that suspect or have confirmed cases of COVID-19 should notify Norwegian authorities as soon as possible. 
Notification should be by phone to Vardø Traffic on telephone +47 78 98 98 98.

In addition, information should be given electronically in SafeSeaNet Norway. Vardø traffic will notify local health authorities at the vessel’s destination port and support the vessel further as needed.

It should be noted that health personnel on board Norwegian vessels and foreign vessels in Norwegian waters have a separate obligation to notify health authorities. 
Legal reference (in Norwegian): https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2007-12-21-1573/§5 and https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2007-12-21-1573/§4

Coastal cruise

Legal reference (in Norwegian): https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2020-03-27-470 § 11- 11b
Norway has established rules and guidelines to allow cruise ships to resume operations along the Norwegian coast.

Requirements and guidelinges are described in Guide for coastal cruises along the Norwegian coastline during the Covid-19 pandemic 2020. 

The guide to coastal cruises along the Norwegian coastline provides advice on how cruise businesses can operate to protect infection and prevent accidental exposure to, and the spread of, covid-19, and advice for managing infection and suspected infection on board.

Before they can start coastal cruises along the Norwegian coast, the various operators must make their own plans for how to comply with the infection control rules in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and national guidelines.

The Directorate of Health will review and approve the plans and check that they meet the infection control requirements.

Contact information to the Directorate of Health:
E-mail: postmottak@helsedir.no 
Mail: Helsedirektoratet, postboks 220, Skøyen, 0213 Oslo
Website: https://www.helsedirektoratet.no/english/corona