Covid -19 - Norwegian protocols with regards to crew change on ships

This document outlines Norwegian protocols with regards to crew change on ships for foreign nationals signing on or off in Norway.

This document outlines Norwegian protocols regarding crew change on ships for foreign nationals signing on or off in Norway.

The document was prepared by the Norwegian Maritime Authority.

The reader should pay attention to the rapidly changing nature of the situation and relevant regulations. Referenced online resources in the document should be consulted for up to date information.
The Norwegian Maritime Authority assesses current regulations to be in line with the IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, effectively recognising seafarers as key workers and allowing crew change to be completed.










Update after changes in national legislation (covid-19-regulation) in effect 14.9.2020.

1. Quarantine requirements

The Norwegian quarantine regulations differ between quarantine after international travel and quarantine after close contact/proximity of a confirmed case.

Regulations described below regarding quarantine are applicable to seafarers signing on/off via mainland Norway. There are separate regulations for the Svalbard and Jan Mayen islands.

The general rule is that all persons entering Norway from an area subject to quarantine should undergo 10 days of quarantine either at home or in a suitable location.

A complete list of areas that are subject to quarantine is available in appendix A to the COVID-19-regulations: (only available in Norwegian).

Any period spent outside these areas immediately before entering Norway may be subtracted from the quarantine period.

Legal reference:§4 (only available in Norwegian)

1.1 Signing on in Norway after international trip

Seafarers joining or leaving a vessel and holding seaman’s identity card issued in accordance with ILO Convention No. 108 or ILO Convention No. 185, are exempt from visa requirements and travel restrictions. In addition, there is a bilateral agreement for Philippine nationals.

Up to 15 days of transit is accepted (awaiting vessel or transport).

Legal references (mostly in Norwegian):

1.1.1 Exemptions from quarantine

Persons who are exempt from quarantine should, as far as possible, avoid close contact with others during what would have been a quarantine period. Any exemption from quarantine is not applicable if the seafarer develops symptoms of acute respiratory infection such as a fever, a cough, breathing difficulties, or is assessed by a doctor to be infected by SARS-CoV-2.

Legal reference (in Norwegian): Covid-19-forskriften, § 6. Fellesregler for personer unntatt karanteneplikt

Alternative 1: Exemption from quarantine for seafarers by testing

  • A seafarer may join the ship and start work after one negative COVID-19 test taken after arrival in Norway. Quarantine on leisure time on board must be maintained until the second negative test has been taken. A second test may not be taken until 48 hours after the first test, and no earlier than five days after arrival in Norway.
  • The tests must be taken after arrival in Norway. The employer must cover the costs and arrange the testing. 
    If a second test is not possible, quarantine on leisure time may be lifted after 10 days.
    This exemption is applicable to:
    • all persons on work related travel with place of domicile in the EEA or Switzerland
    • all seafarers that are exempt from entry restriction, cf. Paragraph 1.1 of this document.
  • The employer must notify local health authorities if any of the tests are positive so that contacts tracing may be carried out.
  • Legal reference (in Norwegian):§6c

Alternative 2: Exemption from quarantine essential to maintain critical functions in society

  • When arriving from areas that are subject to quarantine, seafarers that are essential to maintain critical functions in society may be exempted from quarantine when traveling to and from work. The transport of goods and passengers is identified as a critical function for society, and this means that most of the shipping industry and connected services are covered.
  • This exemption may only be used if the personnel is essential and there is not enough time to complete the testing as outlined in alternative 1. Vessel operators shall, as far as possible, plan operations to allow crew change under alternative 1.
  • All crew necessary to maintain minimum safe manning are essential in order to operate ships. Depending on operational requirements owners may assess that further personnel is essential. Such persons should carry a statement from the owner confirming that such an assessment has been made.
  • This exemption is only valid for work, and the seafarer must quarantine on board outside of working hours for 10 days after signing on.
    Legal reference (in Norwegian):§6e

Alternative 3: exemptions for seafarers on vessels returning to Norway

  • Seafarers that have signed on in Norway are exempt from quarantine when the vessels return to Norway as long as no crew or passengers have been ashore, and no new crew or passengers have joined the vessel. Both the crew and passengers may disembark the vessel in foreign port.
  • Vessels may carry out ordinary cargo operations in port.
  • Legal reference:§6a  

Alternative 4: exemption for frequent work-related travel between Norway and certain areas in Sweden and Finland

  • Seafarers with place of domicile in areas in Sweden and Finland subject to quarantine that frequently travel to Norway are exempt from quarantine during working hours and for work related travel after a negative COVID-19 test every seventh day. The test must be taken in Norway. The employer shall organise and cover cost of testing.
  • Legal reference:§6b

1.1.2 Quarantine after close contact with confirmed case

All persons that have been in close contact with a person with confirmed SARS CoV-2 must be in quarantine for 10 days. More information on requirements and protocols is available here:

Exemption from quarantine after close contact may only be granted to safeguard life and health and is generally not applicable to seafarers.

Legal references (in Norwegian):§4 b) and§6e.

1.2 Signing off in Norway

Persons signing off will be subject to travel quarantine if the vessel has visited an area subject to quarantine (cf. paragraph 1 in this document) during the last 10 days.

However, there is a general exemption allowing persons subject to travel quarantine to leave the country during quarantine. Norwegian protocols regarding travel during quarantine must be followed (see paragraph 1.3 below).

1.3 Travel to/from the vessel

Seafarers that are subject to travel quarantine, regardless of exemption, may use public transportation to/from vessel and place of departure.

A face mask must be used when travelling and in public spaces. General advice to the public regarding social distancing etc. should be followed.

Seafarers that are subject to quarantine after close contact may only use public transportation in exceptional cases and after consulting with local health authorities.

2. Protocols on board

2.1 General requirements

The Norwegian Maritime Authority has published a general guide on “Risk assessment and emergency preparedness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”. This is applicable to Norwegian ships, and it builds on the general framework in regulations on Working environment, health and safety of persons working on board ship. It includes provisions on risk assessment related to the safety or health of persons working on board.

The guidelines establish that the COVID-19 virus is a biological agent under the regulation and gives advice on practical measures on board. Full text available in English here:

Further guidance may be found in industry guidelines such as ICS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers:

Legal reference:

2.2 Routines on board when exempted from quarantine

Seafarers that have joined the vessel and are exempted from travel quarantine during work should, as far as possible, avoid close contact with other persons. In order to minimise risk, special consideration should be given to mealtimes and other situations where distancing is challenging. Quarantine during leisure time must be maintained for 10 days or until a second negative test has been taken.

No exemptions from quarantine are applicable if the seafarer develops symptoms of acute respiratory infection such as a fever, a cough, breathing difficulties, or is assessed by a doctor to be infected by SARS-CoV-2.

2.3 Routines on board when subject to quarantine

Seafarers that are subject to quarantine and not exempted must be quarantined for 10 days in a suitable location.

Depending on vessel type and facilities a merchant ship may be a suitable location.
Owners must assess whether the facilities on the relevant ship are suitable and if routines may be established on board to maintain the quarantine.

If it is not possible to establish a suitable location on board, the seafarer must undergo quarantine before joining the ship.

Note that a seafarer may only commence work during quarantine if he or she is covered by one of the exemptions to quarantine outlined in paragraph 1.1.1.

Further note that quarantine on board is not allowed on vessels on coastal cruise in Norway, cf. paragraph 4 below.

3. Notification in case of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

Vessels arriving from abroad or trading in Norwegian waters that suspect or have confirmed cases of COVID-19 should notify Norwegian authorities as soon as possible.

Notification should be by phone to Vardø Traffic on telephone +47 78 98 98 98. In addition, information should be given electronically in SafeSeaNet Norway. Vardø traffic will notify local health authorities at the vessel’s destination port and support the vessel further as needed.

It should be noted that health personnel on board Norwegian vessels and foreign vessels in Norwegian waters have a separate obligation to notify health authorities.

Legal reference (in Norwegian):§5 and§4

4. Coastal cruise

Norway has established rules and protocols to allow cruise ships to resume operations. Requirements and protocols are described in Guide for coastal cruises along the Norwegian coastline during the Covid-19 pandemic 2020.

Operators must have approval from the Norwegian Directorate of Health before operations may start. Contact information:

Mail: Helsedirektoratet, postboks 220, Skøyen, 0213 Oslo

Legal reference (in Norwegian)

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