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Crew changes

Travel facilitation for merchant and fishing seamen

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, crew relief has become difficult since several weeks due to various State-imposed barriers to travel, including in France. Shipowners have initially often negotiated an extension of the time aboard. With the crisis extension, the ability to organise crew reliefs is becoming increasingly critical and is a key factor for shipowners in choosing ports of call. These obstacles may also affect French shipowners, including on French soil when part of the crew are non-EU citizens.
Therefore, it appeared necessary to facilitate seafarers’ movements regardless of nationality, to and from French ports, both in metropolitan France and overseas departments and territories. This objective is consistent with the recent recommendations made by the International Maritime Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and the European Commission. It only concerns merchant and fishing vessels with small crews. As stipulated by Decree No. 2020-370, calls by cruise ships, which may have very large crews, are temporarily banned unless there is a prefectoral derogation.

Framework in place
In order to carry out crew reliefs to and from French ports in good conditions, while respecting measures to limit the spread of the virus, the following steps are followed :

1. Health situation of seafarers’ assessment
For seamen disembarking from a ship which needs a health declaration on arrival in a French port, the health situation is assessed by the ARS on the basis of the declaration and the duration of the voyage. According to this assessment, the ARS specifies the conditions of the departure of the seamen (evaluation of symptomatic cases on board, tests, quarantine prior to boarding, etc.). For sailors embarking, the shipowner assesses the health situation in accordance with the procedure laid down for French ships or the results of tests. This information may be provided to the authorities. In addition, if the movement of seafarers from the point of disembarkation to the seafarer’s home requires transit by land or air through other EU States, the shipowner will have to prove that such transit is allowed by the States concerned.

2. Stay on the national territory
Seafarers embarking or disembarking are authorized to stay in France, pending their transport on board or the departure of their aircraft. Such stays shall be organised by the shipowners and under their responsibility in semi-privatized "transit hotels", the list of which is set by the prefectural authorities on the proposal of the shipowners. Where appropriate, seamen shall be issued with a visa at the border by the service locally responsible for the border crossing point concerned. In this case, their stay shall be limited to the 15 days authorised for visas.

3. Travel formalities
Seamen must be in possession of :

  • their travel documents (passport, proof of the seaman’s status),
  • a certificate from their employer stating that they are returning home and specifying the route taken ;
  • for international transits, an international travel certificate to France which concerns all merchant and fishing seamen.

4. Designated Relief Ports
The following ports are open to international crew changes :
Grand port maritime de Dunkerque,
Grand port maritime du Havre,
Grand port maritime de Rouen,
Grand port maritime de Nantes-Saint-Nazaire,
Grand port maritime de La Rochelle,
Grand port maritime de Bordeaux,
Grand port maritime de Marseille,
Grand port maritime de Martinique,
Grand port maritime de La Réunion.
The other ports are also open, unless otherwise advised by the prefectoral authorities.

5. Travel arrangements
For international transport or transport between metropolitan France and overseas departments and territories, transport shall be provided by the shipowner at his own expense from the seaman’s place of residence to the point of embarkation or from the point of disembarkation to the seaman’s place of residence. If air travel is required, the border crossing points may only be Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, Martinique-Aimé Césaire airport and Roland Garros airport in Réunion.

6. Contact point
The guichet unique of the RIF (French International Registry) is the contact point for relief monitoring in times of crises. It relies, if necessary, on the expertise of the Seafarers’ Health Service.
Contact : rif.crise@developpement-durable.gouv.fr

References :