In order to enable crew changes, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) has listed seafarers among the class of “essential workers” under its Disaster Risk Management Act and has put in place measures to speed up the transit of registered seafarers through its borders.
An estimated 600,000 seafarers are waiting for crew changes – 300,000 on vessels and 300,000 waiting to embark – according to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). Many of those on board have been working for up to four months past their contracted dates while those waiting to embark are typically not receiving wages, leaving them facing financial ruin.
GOJ is encouraging ship owners to make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible to safely repatriate seafarers whose Seafarers Employment Agreement has expired and has implemented measures to support the repatriation of seafarers and crew changes via Jamaica.
However, in special circumstances, the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, which overseas all matters maritime for the GOJ, will consider extending SEAs to facilitate trade continuity, where the circumstances warrant and there is mutual agreement between the owner and the seafarer.
Meanwhile, the MAJ has resumed normal procedures for the issue and renewal of seafarers’ documentation.
Rear Admiral (ret’d) Peter Brady, MAJ Director General, said, “The Maritime Authority of Jamaica is cognizant of the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its debilitating impact on the global community. There has been some improvement as some ports across the world have re-opened, and seafarers are being repatriated in some instances.
“Notwithstanding, numerous seafarers are still facing difficulty at sea and it is recognized that only a global response will alleviate the hardships seafarers face during this pandemic.”
Outlining the measures Jamaica is taking, he continued, “In response to the recommendations of the IMO and other global industry stakeholders, the Government of Jamaica has instituted measures to alleviate the current crisis. It is to be noted that the borders of Jamaica have re-opened to facilitate controlled re-entry and transit of persons.”
As a consequence, the GOJ is taking steps to ensure that the economy returns to normal operations as far as possible. The MAJ continues to provide the full suite of registration, technical and seafarer certification services to clients from its offices in the usual manner, as well as via purpose-built electronic platforms.
Seafarers wishing to transit Jamaica to join a ship or to return home are required to complete the following two-step process:
- Visit the MAJ website at www.maritimejamaica.com, download and complete the “Jamaica Crew Change Form” and submit by email, along with the required supporting documentation to LegalAffairs@jamaicaships.com.
- This should be submitted at least 48 hours before the intended date of arrival in Jamaica.
- Approved applicants will be issued with an electronic certificate by the MAJ via email.
- The certificate contains an address with unique identification number which is needed in the second step.
- It is to be noted that this is not an approval to enter Jamaica but rather an indication to the Jamaican border authorities that the holder of the Certificate is verified to be a seafarer meeting the requirements of the Order to be considered for expedited transit through Jamaica.
- The second step requires application for actual travel authorization. The seafarers should visit www.visitjamaica.com website, follow the steps outlined for all non-residents seeking to visit Jamaica. On arrival in Jamaica, the unique number on the Certificate should be provided to the Immigration Authorities to activate the expedited transit status.