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PPA GAD Center building currently being used as a testing laboratory for seafarers | Photo from PPA

A molecular testing laboratory dedicated to testing seafarers for the COVID-19 disease has been formally opened at the GAD Center building in Port Area, Manila, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) announced.

The COVID-19 testing facility will cater to testing requirements of crew change hub ports controlled by PPA, particularly the Manila South Harbor, Capinpin port in Bataan, and soon in Batangas port, with the aim to facilitate movement of seafarers to and from the Philippines.

READ: Capinpin port joins Manila, Subic as crew change hub

The laboratory is also intended to be designated “primary seafarer processing center for all inbound and outbound seafarers in the Port of Manila,” PPA general manager Atty. Jay Daniel Santiago said in a statement.

The facility has been given the green light to operate by the Department of Health. It is capable of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) testing for approximately 2,000 people a day and a turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours for test results.

The testing center also acts as a one-stop shop housing the satellite offices of the Maritime Industry Authority, Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Customs, and Philippine Coast Guard to enable it to accommodate the inbound and outbound travel requirements of seafarers.

PPA noted that since the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, crew change woes have hounded the international shipping industry after most countries closed their borders to reduce spread of infection by transiting seafarers.

In response, Philippine ports are being activated as crew change hubs to facilitate the speedy and safe travel of seafarers and change of crew during the pandemic, while also establishing the country as a crew change capital of the world.

The Philippines is one of 13 countries which committed to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers.

The Philippines, one of the major suppliers of seafarers in the international market with over 400,000 Filipino seafarers on board international-going vessels like container ships, general cargo ships and cruise ships, is expected to benefit greatly from the new facility.

In the last four months, almost a thousand ships have called at the Port of Manila to conduct crew changes, PPA noted.

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