THE Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has generated a total of P65.73 million in income from participating in the government’s crew-change program, which facilitated the safe and speedy travel of Filipino and foreign seafarers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the additional revenue was realized after 16 months of processing seafarers following the designation of the Subic Bay Freeport as a crew-change hub in September 2020.

The total income came from the P14.64 million that was earned from September to December 2020, and the P51.09 million that was collected in the 12 months last year.

Eisma said this did not include income earned by local hotels and other tourism-related businesses that provided quarantine rooms and other services for the disembarked seamen.

“The P65.7-million income is an additional windfall that SBMA earned by banking on Subic’s strict enforcement of health safety protocols,” Eisma said.

“And it was realized after Subic took the opportunity—despite initial disapproval by some neighboring LGUs—to provide much-needed service at a time when only a few ports wanted to take in seafarers because of the virus threat,” she added.

Eisma said the SBMA decided favorably on the crew-change project because it would not only bring crewmen home to their families but would also help unlock congestion in ports and reboot the global supply chain that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

According to the SBMA Seaport Department, a total of 254 crew-change operations were undertaken in Subic in the 16 months since September 2020. These involved 62 vessels in 2020 and 192 ships in 2021.

On average, around 12 to 15 ships arrive in Subic each month for crew change, said Seaport general manager Jerome Martinez. On busy times, as many as 25 ships could call in Subic in a month, as they did in June last year, or even 33 as they did last November.

The ships arrive either to take in new on-signers to refresh the crew, or disembark off-signers who must go on vacation or visit their families.

Martinez said in the last 16 months, the port of Subic was able to process a total of 2,001 on-signers, of which 1,931 were Filipinos and 70 were foreigners of various nationalities.

At the same time, a total of 1,927 off-signers came onshore through Subic. These included 1,743 Filipinos and 184 foreigners, Martinez said.

The seafarers arrived in all kinds of ships like the MT Dapeng Star, a liquified natural gas tanker which was the first vessel to call in Subic under the crew-change program; MV Mindoro, a Panama-flagged vehicles carrier; MT Jason, a chemical tanker from Marshall Islands; MT Euro Integrity, a Liberian-flagged crude oil tanker; MV Nine Eagle, a Panama-flagged livestock carrier; and CS Cable Retriever, a dredging and cable-laying ship based in Singapore.

Aside from Subic and the Manila South Harbor, the other designated crew-change hubs in the country are in the port of Batangas, Port of Cebu, Port Capinpin in Orion, Bataan and Port of Sasa in Davao.

Under the crew change program, disembarking seafarers have to quarantine in facilities designated under the One-Stop-Shop (OSS) for Seafarers until testing negative in the RT-PCR Covid-19 test, which is taken on the sixth day after arrival.