KVNR: Visas could be a bottleneck for crew changeovers
Together with Dutch airline KLM, the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR) has set up the first air bridges. This makes it possible to relieve crew that has sometimes been stuck on board a ship for months due to the corona pandemic. However, ‘visas are a point of concern now,’ says KVNR Managing Director Annet Koster.
KVNR and KLM have been working on air bridges from Amsterdam to the home countries of seafarers, such as the Philippines, Ukraine and Poland. As of 26 May, KLM will resume flights to Manila and is currently already flying to Warsaw in Poland. The organisations are still working on other air bridges.
While very pleased with this result, Koster does worry about visas. ‘Especially now that diplomatic posts in seafarers’ countries of residence are often closed, such as the Dutch consulate in Manila, there will be a greater demand at Schiphol for VOA, visas on arrival.’ She says this in a webinar hosted by the KVNR on 20 May.
‘This is our concern, because it cannot and must not be that these VOA become the bottleneck of this major operation to restart crew changes. Because, without redeployment, crew cannot get off a ship and the ship can no longer sail.’
‘Acquiring a VOA in the Netherlands, and thus getting seafarers here, is very difficult, just like in other Schengen countries,’ says Koster, while signing off is much less of a problem in the Netherlands. Since 15 May, non-EU nationals are prohibited from entering by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), as they are not covered by the exemption from the entry ban.
The KVNR has objected to this as it is is also contrary to the European Commission’s call to facilitate crew changes. Koster: ‘So we have to solve this on a European level. We are thinking about a temporary exemption from a visa, so that when you have already had one earlier and you are already in the system, you are now temporarily exempted from a visa requirement. We’re working on that now, but we can’t just regulate this nationally.’
In the meantime, Amsterdam’s airport Schiphol is working on sufficient capacity to handle VOAs.