The ever-increasing measures being taken by nations worldwide in a desperate attempt to slow down the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has sent the global economy up in turmoil and brought the shipping industry into disarray.

The imposition, by a rapidly increasing number of countries, of mandatory quarantine, lockdowns, flight ban and port shutdowns amongst several other measures, have jammed the shipping industry as a whole. These measures have uncovered unthinkable realities. We have seen seafarers stranded on board their vessels, Class surveyors unable to reach ships to perform statutory surveys/audits and cruise liners scrambling to find an available port for passenger and crew disembarkation.

Ever sensitive to the vast scale disruptions which the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the industry, Transport Malta has been pro-active in their response to this extraordinary challenge and has issued new guidelines entitled EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES RESULTING FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. The new guidelines set out practical and efficient temporary measures and procedures with a view to assist, mitigate and facilitate the challenges presently facing shipowners and seafarers alike.

The Guidelines focus largely on three very practical areas, being:

  1. The extension of statutory certificates, surveys, audits and inspections;
  2. The extension of sea service beyond the seafarer’s contract of employment (SEA)
  3. The extension of seafarers’ Endorsement certificates beyond their expiry date.

1. Extension of Statutory Certificates, Surveys, Audits And Inspections.

In cases where surveyors and/or auditors are unable to reach vessels and perform mandatory surveys and/or audits in view of the COVID-19 imposed travel restrictions, Transport Malta will consider, on a case by case basis, requests for the extension or postponement of such surveys/audits by authorising the issue of short term safety certificates. It is highly recommended however that the Shipowner/ISM Manager/operator exercise due diligence and make similar requests in good time before the expiry date in order to avoid potential Port State Control problems.

The request for Class extensions or postponements are to be made by the vessel’s relevant Recognised Organisation directly to Transport Malta on the following email address: tech.tm@transport.gov.mt.

2. Extension Of Sea Service Beyond the Seafarer Employment Agreement Period

Seafarers engaged onboard Malta registered vessels whose employment agreement “SEA” has or is about to expire as a result of COVID-19 related repatriation difficulties may have their SEA extended for a maximum period of three months, extendable for further periods on a case by case basis. Shipowners, Managers and Operators encountering such difficulties are encouraged to apply for such extensions. The requests are to be accompanied by providing details of the seafarer and his current SEA agreement period as well as a copy of an addendum of the SEA extending the original period and retaining the same terms and conditions. It would be wise for both the seafarer and the company to retain documentary evidence demonstrating the reason why the seafarer is being asked to extend their contract.

3. Extension Of The Validity Of The Seafarer Endorsement Certificates Beyond Their Expiry Date.

Seafarers engaged on board Malta flagged vessels whose Malta STCW Endorsement certificate may have expired in view of repatriation difficulties may have their endorsement extended by submitted a request to our offices crew.certification@fenlex.com or directly to TM.

It is important that all requests are accompanied with details of the seafarer, the endorsement number and a copy of the seafarer’s COC certificate.

For any further details in relation to the new measures please contact Rowena Grima, Head of Shipping Department, Fenech & Fenech Marine Services Ltd. on rowena.grima@fenlex.com.

©Fenech & Fenech Advocates 2020

Disclaimer │ The information provided on this Update does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only.  This Update may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information and you are advised to seek updated advice.