Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi Ports helps seafarers to return home as restrictions ease


Shipping crew rotations have resumed in Abu Dhabi allowing scores of merchant sailors to return home after months at sea.

Shipping operations ground to halt as a result of coronavirus-related travel restrictions across international borders, with the sea transport industry one of the worst hit.

Abu Dhabi Ports announced it was now aiding repatriation of seafarers, many whose contracts ended months ago but have been unable to come ashore.

The move follows similar steps taken in Dubai to resume crew changeovers with incoming and returning sailors tested for Covid-19 before either taking up new positions at sea, or flying home.

The priority is to ensure these hardworking frontline workers are being well taken care off

Captain Maktoum Al Houqani, Abu Dhabi Ports

“Our seafarers are the key to our emirate’s efforts to secure sufficient supplies of strategic goods, including food and medicines,” said Captain Maktoum Al Houqani, chief corporate authority officer at Abu Dhabi Ports.

“The priority is to ensure these hard-working frontline workers are being well taken care of,” he said.

“Seafarer safety and well-being plays a crucial role in our business continuity efforts and we are committed to doing our utmost to guarantee their safety and wellbeing during these challenging times.”

All eligible seafarers will be issued a 96-hour visa allowing them to be relieved by incoming crews, depart their respective vessels and travel back home.

Eligibility is being determined according to a number of requirements. Those include the provision of relevant immigration documents by shipping companies’ agents to immigration authorities, a successful Covid-19 PCR test and thermal screening. While restrictions were in place, Abu Dhabi Ports service staff supported seafarers with essential supplies, including bunker fuel, food, fresh water, generator fuel for running the AC units, spare parts and other necessities. Trips were made to anchored tankers on a weekly basis by support staff.

Crew with UAE residency visas, those on passenger vessels and seafarers with urgent medical or humanitarian cases were prioritised in the efforts to bring those at sea back to shore.

Some 1.6 million seafarers around the world are thought to have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and related border closures, either through job losses, unexpected time at sea or unpaid contracts.

“It’s fair to say that without the participation of those who serve with distinction on the high seas, global trade as we know it would collapse,” said Capt Al Houqani.

“Seafarers are the lifeblood of world trade and we are proud to support them every step of the way as we navigate past the recent crew rotation disruptions.

“With our seafarers standing firmly at our front lines, we are sure to succeed in our collective battle against the pandemic and keep the global economy moving.”