The COVID-19 pandemic situation is growing increasingly severe, and the nationwide epidemic alert has been raised to Level 3 since May 19, 2021. Due to the pandemic, members of the public may not be able to have their vessels inspected, apply for license renewals, or participate in training as scheduled according to regulations. In order to reduce the risk of cluster infection and to protect the health and safety of the public, the Maritime and Port Bureau (MPB) will provide three convenient measures - “ship inspection”, “seafarer training”, and “master supervision”, while the inspection period will be extended or applications will be made available online. These three measures will be implemented with immediate effect.
The MPB has indicated that, until the Central Epidemic Command Center announces the end of the Level 3 alert, ships that have not left port and those who have delayed in applying for regular ship inspections may be exempted from penalties without having to produce a certificate of non-departure. If the ship owner is unable to apply for ship inspection due to home quarantine and self-isolation measures because of the pandemic, he/she may apply for inspection within three months after the lifting of the pandemic control measures, and will be exempted from penalty. In addition, for ships providing basic transportation of passengers and goods, if the ship’s navigation validity period is about to expire and there is a need to leave port, the MPB can assist in assigning ship inspectors to conduct the inspection. However, ship owners are reminded to limit the number of personnel accompanying the inspection to no more than two people and to maintain proper social distance during the inspection to reduce the risk of cluster infection. For applications for ship inspections and operation suspension, the MPB encourages the public to apply online or by telephone to reduce in-person contact and effectively carry out epidemic prevention.
Furthermore, in accordance with the Level 3 alert, seafarer training as well as all training carried out by training institutions for yacht and powerboat masters will be suspended from May 15, 2021. However, in order to ensure uninterrupted training for the relevant members of the public and seafarers during the pandemic, seafarer training institutions and yacht and powerboat master training institutions will be open for online teaching of subject courses, as long as they conform to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention) and maintain the training quality and quantity.
According to the MPB, training institutions are unable to conduct physical training courses during the pandemic, therefore in order to ensure the unimpeded appointment of seafarers and the continuous operation of the shipping industry, ocean carriers have been given priority assistance in applying for certificate validity extension services for seafarers whose seafarer certifications have expired. In addition, to prevent backlogs at training institutions from the huge surge in seafarer training demand once the pandemic situation eases, it has been proposed that training institutions launch online courses. Additionally, to ensure the quality of training, “The Maritime and Port Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications Principles of Online Teaching for Seafarer Training and Yacht and Powerboat Master Training in Response to the Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens” have been established to serve as the implementation principles for training institutions when conducting online teaching and training. In the future, after completing the online courses of various subjects, seafarers will only need to complete the practical training when the pandemic subsides and classes return to normal. After the seafarer has passed the assessment, the relevant certificate will be issued. As for yacht and powerboat master training, online courses for these subjects can be carried out first, and a certificate of completion will be issued to the candidate by the master training institution after completing the technical training hours in the future.
In addition, in consideration of current efforts to reduce the outpatient operational load on teaching hospitals and public hospitals, as well as to comply with national pandemic prevention policies and maintain the current medical capacity, the MPB will extend the validity period of commercial powerboat master licenses that expired during the Level 3 alert period. As long as the license renewal is completed within 6 months after the nationwide epidemic Level 3 alert is lifted, the license will not be deemed as having been expired.
The MPB has stated that the various measures to facilitate or regulate ship inspections, seafarer training, and master supervision during the pandemic are intended to provide more convenient services to the public while reducing the risk of the pandemic spreading. In the future, the MPB will continue to monitor the development of the pandemic, as well as review relevant measures to provide safer and more convenient services to the public. For related information, please visit the MPB’s official website to keep track of the latest news (https://www.motcmpb.gov.tw/).
Lin, Kuan-Hung, Section Chief, Vessel Management Division
Chan, Chia-Chuan, Section Chief, Seafarers Administration Division