Crew Quarantine – What We’ve Learned

posted by Adam Briggs

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on every aspect of the global economy, and particularly the yachting industry which is heavily reliant on the crew employed and air travel to get them to where they need to be.

Restrictions around the world are now easing and most people’s lives are returning to something resembling normality – however, there is always a possibility that there could be another variant of concern which may present a completely different challenge to overcome and bring back more mandatory quarantine requirements. Captains, Crew, Managers and Owners need to be prepared to deal with any future outbreaks and be aware of different jurisdiction’s attitude to quarantine.

The changing requirements of quarantine are complex and where the requirements and responsibilities fall can vary greatly depending on the individual situation, and the location concerned. From a crewing perspective, as a general rule what we’ve learned over the last year, is that any period of quarantine when traveling to or from the yacht should be treated as “in service” of the yacht. The crew member should not be penalised for these periods and the associated costs where this is outside their control, for example. government mandated or yacht policy quarantine.

Some exceptions to this are detailed as follows:

In the case of repatriation at the end of an employment agreement:

  • Where a seafarer is able to quarantine at their agreed place of repatriation i.e. their home, they would be liable for their own expense, however any quarantine prior to this e.g. at a specific quarantine facility would be at the shipowner’s expense.
  • Where a seafarer’s agreed place of repatriation is at an airport any quarantine requirements after arrival at this airport would be at the seafarer’s expense.

In the case of repatriation during an employment agreement for the purposes of taking annual leave:

  • If the seafarer is voluntarily taking annual leave and has, or will be able to use, the full flag state minimum annual leave allowance, and has not exceeded the maximum periods of service, any time spent in quarantine for the purpose of taking annual leave can be treated as “neutral leave” where annual leave is neither used nor accrued. If the seafarer has not had an opportunity to use the full flag minimum annual leave allowance, then the quarantine should not impact their ability to “enjoy” their annual leave, and it should be accounted for outside their annual leave entitlement.
  • Where a seafarer is on a rotational SEA, periods of quarantine will need to be considered to ensure there is sufficient cover onboard for safe manning purposes and to ensure a handover can be completed where required. Seafarers with a rotational annual leave allowance will generally meet the criteria noted above, however as the rotational schedule is most likely dictated by the yacht there would be a strong argument that annual leave is not being used voluntarily.

Both Sarnia Yachts and flag states note that while there are situations where a seafarer will be responsible for their own quarantine expenses, the Owner or Manager should consider the impact this may have on the individual especially where crew are required to quarantine in a dedicated facility.

With the 2022 Mediterranean season rapidly gathering pace Covid-considerations are still valid. While many countries no longer have any restrictions some are enforcing more severe quarantine requirements to combat spikes in case numbers especially for individuals who choose to remain unvaccinated. We need to be ready and continue to monitor should a variant of concern emerge and mandatory quarantine becomes an issue again on a global scale.

If you have any questions regarding quarantining requirements don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Sarnia Yachts Crew team.

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