I. Crew Changes of ships in ports or marinas in the Republic of Cyprus

According to Decree (P.I. 72/2021) of the Minister of Health titled "the Infectious Diseases (Determination of Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus Decree (No.8) of the 12th February 2021, (hereinafter "The Decree")", new restrictions are applied for the crew changes of ships or other vessels in ports or marinas in the Republic of Cyprus.

More specifically, crew changes in ports of Cyprus are allowed under conditions as below:

  1. For crew changes involving crew members of any nationality which, in the 14 preceding days before their arrival in Cyprus, were in countries belonging only to categories A or B or were onboard vessels which did not dock at any port, or which docked only in ports of countries of categories A or B, no approval is required from the Shipping Deputy Ministry. In all such cases, crew changes should be effected in accordance with all existing measures and procedures applicable to persons arriving from countries belonging to categories A and B.
  2. Applications for crew changes discharged from merchant or other vessels should be submitted by the companies involved, to the Shipping Deputy Ministry, at the email address crewchanges@dms.gov.cy and should include:
    1. Name of ship and IMO number (if applicable);
    2. Port or port facility in Cyprus;
    3. Name(s) of crew member(s);
    4. Details of departure flight;
    5. Location of residence in Cyprus (if applicable).
    No approval is required for crew changes between vessels (which do not involve the embarkation / disembarkation of any crew members).
  3. Crew members intending to enter the Republic of Cyprus through airports of the Republic, bound for enlistment with merchant or other vessels in ports and port facilities of Cyprus should obtain the Cyprus Flight Pass (see www.cyprusflightpass.gov.cy), providing all information, data and declarations required. They should hold the Cyprus Flight Pass before boarding the airplane and before their arrival in the Republic. For crew members of ships or other vessels, whose flight originates from a country other than category A and B country, Cyprus Flight Pass may be obtained with responsibility of the ship agent or the company representing the ship or other vessel in Cyprus. The agent or company should, within 14 days before the flight, obtain special entry permission, through web page www.cyprusflightpass.gov.cy. Applications not submitted by agents or companies not seated in the Republic will be rejected.
  4. According to paragraph 2.34 of the Order, until 28th February at 23:59 hours, or as may be extended, persons arriving in the Republic from the United Kingdom should comply with all terms of the paragraph, including the obligation of transfer to hotels or/and tourist accommodations with which the Deputy Ministry of Tourism has signed a contract, where they should remain in compulsory confinement for a period of 7 days from their date of arrival. In case transfer of the seafarer will take place upon arrival or within a period of less than 7 days, the ship agent advises the Shipping Deputy Ministry accordingly at crewchanges@dms.gov.cy in order to effect the necessary arrangements. The advice should include:
    • Name of seafarer;
    • Passport number;
    • Ship's name, IMO number and port in Cyprus; and
    • Flight details
  5. An individual approval of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works will be required for any case of private flight. Persons wishing to arrive in the Republic for professional obligations related to shipping and originate from countries other than category A and B countries, according to paragraph 2.13 of the Decree, should apply to the designated Committee through web page www.cyprusflightpass.gov.cy, within 14 and 2 days from the scheduled date of arrival. The companies representing these persons in the Republic may advise the Shipping Deputy Ministry about the application, at Email address crewchanges@dms.gov.cy.

II. Covid-19 Prevention and Management Guide to the coastal shipping

The Shipping Deputy Ministry of Cyprus, exercising the powers derived from paragraph 2.4 of the Decree decides:

  1. The suspension until the 28th of February 2021 of the operation of the coastal passenger vessels, including small passenger vessels.
    However, the movement of divers' boats is permitted under the following conditions:
    1. the safety certificate of a coastal small passenger vessel will be in force;
    2. in addition to the captain and an assistant, the transportation of divers shall not exceed 75% of the permitted number of passengers or their 10;
    3. all precautionary measures will be taken as described in the Covid-19 Prevention and Management Guide to the coastal shipping, published on the website of the State Department of Shipping, and in addition, the use of protective masks will be mandatory for all passengers.
    4. the passengers (divers) of the boat are allowed to depart, provided they obtain a permit for exceptional movement for physical exercise or individual sport.
  2. The movement of coastal passenger and small passengers vessels is allowed with the minimum crew stated in the Certificate of Minimum Safe Manning, for the purposes of their maintenance in boatyard or marina and their transportation from those areas to the place that are usually docked.
  3. The sailing of pleasure/private yachts is only allowed for swimming, diving or fishing purposes. Passengers are allowed to do so provided they obtain a permit for exceptional movement for physical exercise or individual sport.
  4. In all commercial vessels that will continue their activities, having on board crew or/and passengers who do not reside permanently in the vessel, the use of protective masks by all will be mandatory passengers.
  5. The maximum number of passengers on board private yachts will not exceeds 12 people.
  6. The Inspections of coastal passenger and small passenger vessels, along with the highspeed vessels are continued to be carried out by the surveyors of the Shipping Deputy Ministry.
  7. The examinations for obtaining a highspeed vessel's pilot license are in force.

III. Epidemiological risk assessment of countries concerning COVID-19, dated 17/2/2021

The epidemiological image of various countries with regard to the COVID-19 disease has been re-evaluated by the Epidemiological Monitoring and Control of Infectious Diseases Unit of the Medical Services and the Public Health Services. The evaluation was based on the epidemiological indicators of the countries, such as: the effective reproduction number R(t) for SARS-CoV-2, the number of new diagnoses, the number of laboratory tests, the mortality rate per 100,000 inhabitants, the estimated prevalence and the impact and classification by the World Health Organization (WHO), as these indicators appear on valid databases.

The following categorization of countries, based on the epidemiological risk assessment, is extremely dynamic and may be modified at any moment as the pandemic evolves and the epidemiological data change. For this reason, new data would be announced and the list of countries updated frequently.

It should be noted that in categorizing countries the revised Recommendation of the European Council on the EU's external borders (2021/89) has been taken into consideration.

Countries are categorized according to their epidemiological situation into categories A, B and C, with category A having the most favorable epidemiological status.

Countries of Category A

The countries of Category A are 1) Australia, 2) New Zealand, 3) Singapore and they are all considered as low risk countries at the current stage.

It should be noted that in accordance with a decision of the Council of Ministers, dated 3 February 2021, passengers coming from Category A countries shall be required to go into a 72-hour self-isolation and undergo a PCR test 72 hours after their arrival.

Countries of Category B

The countries of Category B are 1) Germany, 2) Finland, 3) Greece, 4) Norway, 5) Iceland, 6) China (including Hong Kong and Macau), 7) South Korea, 8) Thailand and they are all considered as low countries with possibly low risk but greater uncertainty compared to Category A.

It should be noted that passengers coming from Category B countries shall be required to have undertaken a laboratory test within 72 hours prior to departure and to possess a Certificate showing a negative PCR examination result. In addition to the aforementioned, in accordance with a decision of the Council of Ministers, dated 3 February 2021, these passengers shall be required to go into a 72-hour self-isolation and undergo a PCR test 72 hours after their arrival.

It is also clarified that passengers from Category B countries, falling into the following categories, may carry out the molecular examination upon arrival in the Republic:

  1. Cypriot citizens and family members (alien spouses, underage children and parents thereof),
  2. all those legally residing in the Republic,
  3. persons entitled to under the Vienna Convention,
  4. persons, irrespective of nationality, whose countries of residence do not provide a laboratory testing service (public or private), to those wishing to travel to the Republic of Cyprus and following a relevant announcement.

It should be noted that the examination cost will be borne by themselves and in addition, such persons should remain in self-isolation until the examination result is issued.

IV. The Action Plan of the Cyprus Flag during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Since February 2020, the Shipping Deputy Ministry has issued a plethora of circulars, taking urgent provisional measures for the operation of Cypriot ships and minimising risks to seafarers, passengers and others on board Cypriot ships during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Minister of Transport, Communications and Works, in exercising the powers vested in him by Article 14(1) of the Cyprus Ports Authority Legislation of 1973 to 2016, issued instructions for the implementation of restrictive measures at ports and port installations, as well as regarding crew-change protocol, to counter the pandemic.

In addition, the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the rapid advancement of technology in the shipping sector. To that extent, the Shipping Deputy Ministry has made significant progress to simplify formalities and transform its services to a paperless environment, increasing the efficiency and attractiveness of the Cyprus registry and its relevant services. During the outbreak, the Shipping Deputy Ministry remained fully operational and continued to provide its services without any disruption, providing, at the same time, facilitations to shipping companies and owners of Cyprus-flagged vessels.

Among others, the Shipping Deputy Ministry adopted urgent provisional measures relating to the extension of the validity period of certain seafarers certificates, extended the annual/intermediate period or renewal surveys for all ships' statutory certificates and gave the possibility of remote audits, acknowledging that Cyprus-flagged vessels are encountering increasing difficulties in arranging surveys, audits, inspections, etc. Moreover, the Shipping Deputy Ministry introduced special measures as to the deferral of payment deadlines for tonnage tax and annual maintenance fees.

Cyprus was one of the first countries worldwide that recognised seafarers as essential workers and introduced practical measures for crew changes. Since May 2020, around 5,000 seafarers have been repatriated or have been able to return to work through Cyprus.

When it comes to the vaccination of the seafarers, which is a complex issue in terms of logistics, Cyprus is involved in all the deliberations at global and EU level, for a collective and coordinated approach. More specifically, the Shipping Deputy Minister has recently declared that ''Cyprus believes that it should be a distinction and a different approach for short sea and deep sea shipping. For short sea shipping, national measures appear to offer a better fit and regional co-operation might be easier to achieve. On deep sea shipping, issues such as the country of origin of the seafarers, transport (air travel restrictions, etc.) issues, availability of vaccines, the two-stage vaccination process and the subsequent time required for a seafarer to be considered inoculated, are potentially a logistical nightmare. For this reason, Cyprus believes that vessels operating in long-distance intercontinental routes should be considered an isolated Covid-19 zone, a 'bubble', hence the focus should be on seafarers ashore. In this respect, Cyprus proposes a coordinated global approach to ensure that adequate number of vaccines for seafarers are available to the country of origin of seafarers.''

V. Anchorage of foreign cruise ships in Limassol

A leading cruise ship operators (Carnival cruise line and their sister companies) have chosen to anchor six of the world's most impressive cruise ships off Limassol (in the Limassol Moni anchorage) in a significant financial boost to the Cypriot economy, at a time when it is under pressure because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More specifically, the cruise ships have been anchored (with no passengers on board) off Limassol since May 2020, after journeys were cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns, as they could not conduct their trans-Atlantic routes. Only crew are on board the ships, which are all modern and have all the comforts and luxuries, which they can afford to their crew.

The majority of modern cruise ships feature among the most advanced and environmentally friendly vessels ever constructed. The design of these high-technology, multi-million dollar vessels and the systems used in their operation are specifically built to meet the most stringent of environmental legislation and requirements and allow the vessels to operate in some of the most environmentally protected waters on our planet, such as Alaska and the Arctic.

It is worth mentioning that each vessel contributes around 20,000 euros per month. More precisely, the vessels pay fees for anchorage, they order goods and services from local suppliers to support the crews onboard (there are no passengers) and they utilise local companies to provide technical support and assistance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.