Philippines opens Asia’s first Green Lane for seafarers’ free movement across borders

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Green lane for seafarers
Seafarers in Asia will be allowed speedy and safe travel in the Philippines’ Green Lane. Photo from DFA Facebook.

The Philippines has opened the first “green lane” for seafarers in Asia to allow the free movement of seafarers and personnel across borders.

The move comes as the Philippines – acknowledged as the largest supplier of seafarers to the world’s shipping industry – faces challenges in addressing the need to assist Filipinos who are trapped in vessels and need to be repatriated back to the country.

The Green Lane ensures seafarers are allowed speedy and safe travel including safe and swift disembarkation and crew change subject to health protocols enforced by the Philippine government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that the Green Lane that took effect on July 2, 2020, also intends to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for both Filipino and foreign seafarers whether inbound, outbound or transiting during crew change or repatriation.

The Inter-Agency Joint Circular will facilitate the creation of controlled travel corridors to open the Philippines for people-to-people and economic exchange and stimulate the country’s economy amidst its ongoing bout against the pandemic.

The Green Lane Joint Circular states it:

  • covers seafarers, licensed manning agencies, shipping companies, airlines, and other entities involved in facilitating the travel of seafarers for purposes of crew change and repatriation during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • sets the minimum standards and process flows for each applicable scenario that all stakeholders should follow to facilitate the speedy and safe conduct of crew change or repatriation
  • aims to complement the existing standard health and safety protocols

Belal Ahmed, chairman of the International Maritime Employers’​ Council and MD of Singapore-based Western Shipping, praised the creation of the Green Lane but said other countries need to provide support as well.

“The Philippines government cannot do all this by itself – for example, it cannot open the door for Filipino seafarers to arrive in the EU without a visa. We only need temporary solutions to resolve this, but how do we wake governments up?” Ahmed said in a Capital Link webinar.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has also called for the resumption of international flights to assist the seafarers.

“We are now at the stage where this has become a humanitarian issue – we have been begging airlines to resume flights, but it is governments that authorises those flights,” Steve Cotton, Secretary-General of maritime union the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), said.

Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said: “Not one group alone is going to solve this – everybody has to work together.

“It is not just about resuming flights out of the major labour supply countries; it’s now about really getting the governments to appreciate how serious this is, because without crew changes resuming, the global supply chain is under threat,” Platten added.

The DFA had also reported that 31 countries are now accepting Filipino travelers into their borders while the Philippines’ Port Area also been turned into a comfortable quarantine facility for seafarers and OFW repatriates.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to Filipino seafarers as they are given assistance to come home through the Green Lane.

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Aurora Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.