The Director of Maritime Safety and Standards (which includes the UK Ship Register) at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency says that exceptional times need exceptional measures.
Katy Ware, who is also the UK’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization says that the industry should be assured that the MCA will do all it can to help during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Survey and inspection activity of ships is currently suspended, however the MCA has put in place a number of measures to make sure that shipping of freight and other vital lifelines will continue. And it has offered guidance and advice to seafarers and shipowners at a time of uncertainty to help.
Katy, who like most of the MCA other than frontline emergency response teams, is now working from home said: ‘We’re living in exceptionally challenging circumstances. None of us could’ve foreseen this and at the moment, we can’t see a definite end. Now, more than ever it becomes critical that we work with the industry and seafarers who will be bringing in so much of what we need to get us through these next few weeks and even months. As an island we’re reliant on shipping from the fishing boats to the ferries to the huge container ships to keep the lifeblood of this maritime nation flowing.
‘And while we can’t compromise on safety, there are a number of temporary measures we have and are taking to ensure shipping doesn’t come to a standstill and seafarers can keep working.’
Katy said these included a temporary exceptional relaxation on rules based on a risk-based approach to allow the granting of extensions to ship certificates, and emergency provisions for seafarers certification as a last resort to keep freight moving and lifeline links operating.
But she added that owners, operators and seafarers mustn’t assume extensions or the granting of exceptions to maritime regulations and had to follow the guidelines, if they have any queries please speak to the MCA and the local Marine Offices as soon as possible.
She said: ‘We are here to support the maritime sector to the greatest extent possible, whilst ensuring the safety of those whom work in it. We want to do all we can to protect them from COVID-19, while making sure that we keep freight moving and the vital passenger ferries running that are lifelines in the UK.’
Links to the full guidance for survey and inspection and seafarers can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/maritime-and-coastguard-agency