Sharp Crewing Services Establishes COVID-19 Test Site in Manila
Philippines and Singapore-based crew specialist CF Sharp has established its own COVID-19 testing center in Manila to speed up its crew change process amid mounting coronavirus case counts and ongoing logistical challenges for seafarers and ship managers globally.
Sharp, which earlier this year repatriated more than 12,000 crew members from cruise ships around the world, is now pitching in to assist with crew changes for commercial vessels docked off the Philippine coast and has set up a coronavirus testing regime at the company’s Seafarer Family Center in Manila.
Partnering with Safeguard DNA Diagnostics Inc (SDDI), CF Sharp said it is able to undertake speedy and cost-effective testing to enable crew changes via Manila ports. SDDI operates a diagnostics laboratory and is duly licensed and accredited to perform clinical laboratory testing and diagnostics procedure by the Department of Health. The company is able to carry out Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Process (RT-PCR) on returning or departing seafarers in order to enable crew changes to take place swiftly and successfully. Most countries currently require a valid RT PCR certificate to be obtained within 72 hours of transit.
Roger Storey, Managing Director, CF Sharp Crew Management, Singapore, said, “Having undertaken such a large-scale repatriation process on behalf of our cruise principals when the pandemic first struck, our staff have gained considerable expertise in how best to manage crew transits, particularly with regard to the regularly-changing rules, restrictions and testing regimes. We identified testing as being an area where we could streamline the process and, since our Family Center is not currently operating, we were able to set up a testing facility there.
“Having our own test center means we can control the procedure and ensure crew are processed promptly and receive their results in good time to facilitate their on bound journey either home or to their vessel. Speeding up the testing regime also saves ship operators money which is important since crew change costs around the globe have almost doubled as a result of the pandemic. At this difficult time the shipping industry must do all it can to support our seafarers while they keep the world supplied with trade and aid.”
CF Sharp’s facility houses two testing booths and can process up to 50 crew each day. The service operates in a COVID-safe manner and the swab test itself only takes three minutes to perform. In addition to carrying out tests at the CFS Family Center, the swab team also undertake testing in the hotels where onsigners (mainly for the many cruise vessels for which CF Sharp provides crew) are undergoing isolation prior to dispatch. The testing team can carry out hundreds of tests each day if needed.
The company also keeps a comprehensive list of returning crew each month in coordination with crewing managers. In line with Philippine Government regulations, CF Sharp staff meet all offsigning crew at the airport and escort them to their assigned quarantine hotel in Manila. All crew members arriving at the airport undergo RT PCR testing and remain at their quarantine accommodation until their results arrive back – usually within two to three days, although this can be as quick as 24 hours if needed. If the result returns as negative they are then free to return home or take an outbound flight. If the test is positive the seafarer is taken to a Philippine Government quarantine facility to continue their isolation period under medical supervision. During this time CF Sharp staff monitor and assist crew, making sure they are safe.