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The European Commission (EC) has issued new guidelines to support crew members on cruise ships and cargo vessels during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The guidelines include health, repatriation and travel arrangement recommendations.

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It has also asked the EU member states to come up with a port network where crew changes can be managed without delays.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Seafarers are keeping the vital channels for our economy and supply chains open, as 75% of EU global trade and 30% of all goods transported within the EU are moved by sea.

“The guidelines adopted today include sanitary advice, recommendations for crew changes, disembarking and repatriation for seafarers and passengers.

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“I am asking the member states to designate ports where fast-track crew changes take place and recall that cruise operators have a responsibility to their customers and employees to bring everyone safely home.”

The EC has asked the member states to adhere to the guidance issued by the commission on transit arrangement facilitation and green lane implementation.

Additionally, the commission has asked them to also grant visas to non-EU nationals who disembarked and could not apply beforehand due to the pandemic. This is expected to help in their repatriation.

EC said that the extension of contracts should occur after the concerned individuals agree to it.

The guidelines added that the repatriation of crew and passengers should be the responsibility of the cruise operators.

Member states should support the operators to find ports for disembarkation and repatriation.

If a ship carries a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19, it should head to ports that are nearby where there is sufficient capacity in the hospitals.

Before they enter a port, ships should submit the Maritime Declaration of Health. They should also communicate the number of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 onboard four hours before they dock at the port.

Seafarers and port workers should have access to personal protective equipment while also following the existing recommendations.

Earlier this week, the US implemented restrictions that will prohibit cruise ship passengers and crew from boarding commercial aircraft.