COVID19: Cyprus shipping extends seafarer certification, inspections

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Cyprus’ junior ministry for shipping has issued provisional measures to help onboard seafarers secure their certificates because of difficulties encountered in crew changes worldwide, as well as the inspections of ships due to the coronavirus outbreak.

This follows an earlier announcement to postpone the payment of registry and tonnage tax dues to the end of May, as well as measures to avoid physical contact between the maritime industry and government services.

In a memo issued to all shipowners, bareboat charterers, managers and representatives of ships flying the Cyprus flag, the Deputy Ministry for Shipping said it has adopted measures for seafarers who joined a ship prior March 1, 2020, and remain on board with a renewed contract.

These include extending to September 1, 2020, the Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Proficiency which expired on or after March 1, 2020, as well as Medical Fitness Certificates and Seafarer’s Identification and Sea Service Record Books.

The same extension applies to Cyprus endorsements attesting the recognition of national certificates of competency as provided by a similar extension issued by the competent authorities of the country which issued the certificate of competency.

The memo also includes measures to accommodate vessels and shipowners that are facing difficulties to arrange the surveys, audits, inspections and servicing activities due to a lack of availability of surveyors and auditors, travel restrictions, limited access to port facilities and the shutdown of many airports around the world.

For surveys in areas not affected by COVID-19, operators are urged to arrange for surveys, audits or inspections of their vessels as early as possible and within the window provided by the relevant international maritime conventions at locations and under conditions which will not adversely affect the health of the personnel.

An extension of the annual, intermediate, periodic or renewal surveys is possible for all ships’ statutory certificates, subject to authorisation.

Extension is possible for up to three months from the last date of the window survey, provided that this request is supported by the classification society of the vessel.

The Deputy Ministry said it may also accept a remote inspection in lieu of the onboard survey, whenever the recognised organisation (RO) proposes that any of the above-mentioned surveys may be carried out by remote inspection techniques.

If the authorised RO is unable to attend the vessel to complete a survey or inspection leading to the endorsement or renewal of a relevant certificate, then a short-term certificate may be issued with a validity of not more than three months from the date of expiration of the current certificate or the closure of the required window for the conduct of the required activity.

On the expiration of the short-term certificate, or earlier, a survey or inspection must be completed and a new certificate issued, aligned with the expiration date of the previous certificate, the junior ministry added.

If, due to restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an auditor or inspector cannot attend upcoming International Safety Management (ISM) and International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) inspections, audits or verifications due before July 1, a recognised organisation (RO) or recognised security organisation (RSO) must notify the Cyprus maritime administration and obtain relevant authorisation

Otherwise, authorisation is required for a 3-month extension to the 12-month interval for shore-side and shipboard internal audits, which may be postponed for a further three months.

In the case of the initial, intermediate and renewal of the ISM verification, authorisation is required for an extension of the relevant safety management certificate (SMC) for up to three months.

Authorisation is also required for the issuance of a short-term Document of Compliance (DOC), valid for a period of no longer than three months, in the event that a company is unable to complete the necessary verifications due to the current COVID-19 circumstances.

Verification

As regards the ISPS code, the internal annual audits ISPS verification may be postponed for up to three months without further authorisation from the Cyprus maritime administration while for audits to be carried out during the 3-month extension period, the administrator will accept a remote audit in lieu of a physical audit.

For the initial ISPS verification, the administration will authorise a consecutive interim International Ship Security Certificate (ISSC) with a validity of up to three months to complete the initial verification. For the intermediate ISPS verification, authorisation is required for the issuance of a short-term ISSC with a validity of no longer than three months, while for the renewal of the ISPS verification, authorisation is required for an extension of the ISSC for no longer than three months.

The Cyprus maritime administration said it may also accept a remote audit in lieu of the onboard audit, whenever the RO/RSO confirms that such audits may be carried out by remote auditing techniques.

Where a RO is able to conduct a survey on board a vessel in compliance with the normal course of survey and certification, no notification is required and the relevant certificate may be issued or endorsed as necessary. In the case of ISM and ISPS related audits, the associated RO is obliged to inform Ministry as per Circular No. 03/2019 at [email protected] and as per Circular No. 24/2015 at [email protected]

It added that for statutory certificates issued by an RO, and the issuance of a short-term certificate or extension as provided on the basis of this circular, the Ministry should be notified at [email protected].

Stavros Michael, the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Shipping Deputy Ministry reminded owners and managers of Cyprus-flagged ships that they remain liable to maintain at all times compulsory insurance in force and, if applicable, carry on board relevant certificates in hard copy or electronic form.

Cyprus maritime administration has set up a dedicated section on its website where all related information and circulars issued by the Deputy Ministry for Shipping, the Cyprus government, the EU and the IMO regarding COVID -19.

These include the extension of the deadline for payment of the Cyprus Registry Maintenance Annual Fee and the tonnage tax of Cyprus ships for the year 2020 by two months, from March 31 to May 31, and the suspension of all public contacts, urging the industry to submit all requests electronically.