The Ministry of Health (MOH) had earlier reported that a marine surveyor and a harbour pilot had tested positive for COVID-19 infection on 30 and 31 December 2020 respectively. Contact tracing is underway to prevent the clusters from spreading.
The agencies are also investigating if there had been any breach of COVID-19 safe management measures. Preliminary investigations reveal that the marine surveyor, like the marine service engineer who tested positive for COVID-19 infection earlier on 26 November 2020, consumed food provided by or with the crew onboard the ships, which was against a precautionary measure.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), and MOH take a serious view of non-compliance with COVID-19 safe management measures and will not hesitate to take firm actions against the errant companies and individuals.
- For the earlier case involving the marine service engineer, MPA has stopped the company, Master Systems Marine Pte Ltd, from sending any of its personnel to work onboard ships. This will continue until the company can demonstrate that its employees will adhere to safe management measures onboard ships.
- For the latest case involving the marine surveyor, Lloyd’s Register Singapore Pte Ltd has suspended all its shipboard survey and audit activities. Lloyd’s Register will be testing all its marine surveyors for COVID-19.
- Further actions may be taken against the companies and individuals after investigations have been completed.
MPA also requires all shore-based personnel to give MPA advance notice before they board ships to carry out works or provide services. MPA will take firm action against the ship’s owner, master or agent for non-compliances.
For shipyards, EDB introduced mandatory precautionary measures on 21 December 2020. Shipyards should only issue shipyard acceptance letters to ships seeking repairs when a ship is compliant with these measures. In addition, shipyards should only allow shore-based personnel to board a ship for work when all crew have been tested negative for COVID-19 infection on arrival at the shipyard. Failure to comply could result in EDB enforcing work suspensions and/or financial penalties.
To protect shore-based personnel and minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 during their work, MPA promulgated the Port Marine Circular 35 of 2020 on 24 August 2020 which lists the precautionary measures that all personnel going onboard ships must take. These include wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), shortening the duration of stay onboard to minimise exposure, no overnight stay onboard, avoiding interactions with crew, having designated work and rest area that is segregated from crew, no loitering in crew living and common area, bringing and consuming own individually packed food and drinks and consuming meals separate from the ship’s crew and not sharing food/drinks with the crew. Shore-based personnel in the maritime sector are also on the rostered routine testing (RRT) and tested for COVID-19 every 14 days. Please refer to the Annex for Port Marine Circular 35 of 2020 for a list of the measures.
In light of the two recent cases, MPA will tighten the testing regime for all shore-based personnel going onboard ships. First, all shore-based personnel going onboard ships will need to take a COVID-19 PCR test within the next seven days, between 2 and 8 January 2021, to give assurance that they are clear of COVID-19. This will cover more than 20,000 personnel. Second, they will thereafter be subject to a tighter RRT regime; they will be tested every seven days instead of 14 days previously. Those who do not adhere to the RRT regime will not be allowed to board ships to work.
In addition, as announced by MOH on 31 December 2020, there will be a special testing operation to test all workers who had boarded the ships that the marine surveyor and harbour pilot, who tested positive for COVID-19 infection, had recently worked on.
MPA, EDB and relevant agencies will be stepping up checks to ensure compliance of COVID-19 safe management measures by companies and individuals. Individuals and companies which are found to have violated these measures will be taken to task. Agencies will also review the need to enhance PPE and infection control measures in the sector.
In view of the risk of importing COVID-19 into Singapore, MPA, MOH, EDB, and Enterprise Singapore, as well as industry associations such as the Singapore Association of Ship Suppliers and Services, Singapore Shipping Association, and Association of Singapore Marine Industries, have been reminding the maritime community to stay vigilant. MPA has also sent regular reminders to the industry to adhere to precautionary measures when carrying out activities in the port.
The Port of Singapore plays a critical role in supporting Singapore’s economy. Shore-based personnel help keep our supply chains flowing and ensure essential goods reach Singapore. Given the cross-border nature of the industry, all personnel working in our port must continue to stay vigilant to safeguard their and their families’ health and safety.
Sea News Feature, January 4