Crew Change Update: What to Expect Upon Arrival in Manila

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Travel & Immigration | 0 comments

Arrival in Manila Summary

Here is the summary of things to expect upon arrival in Manila.

  • QR Code containing your personal info which is presented to the Coast Guard.
  • Swab Test
  • Immigration
  • MARINA and OWWA Helpdesk
  • Baggage Claim

Everything will be explained below.

Crew Change Experience

With efforts from various maritime organizations, many ports today allow crew changes with proper COVID-19 Protocols. These measures vary from place to place.

Others are what I deemed slack, while some require you to go for a mandatory 3-day quarantine in your sign-off port.

On my ship, crew change was separated into two groups. The first one happened last September 5 but was able to reach Manila on September 11.

The second group, which I was part of, disembarked on September 10 and arrived in Manila on September 12, 2020.

Here’s how it happened.

The first group signed off in Sete, France. The port required to quarantine them for 3 days after taking the swab test. They left the facility on the 9th of September.

But when they reached their connecting flight, the airline disapproved of their swab test result since its validity was only for three days.

They had to sort it out again with the airline and the company’s agent until they managed to arrive on the 11th of September.

The Smooth Group

Our group, on the other hand, signed off in Valencia, Spain. Armed with our itinerary receipt, guarantee letter, a letter of certification from the ITF, and a Spain Travel Health Document, everything just went smoothly.

Crew change requirement in Valencia Spain: Flight Itinerary, Letter of Guarantee, Letter from ITF, SpTH Certificate from Spain.
Flight Itinerary, Letter of Guarantee, Letter from ITF, SpTH Certificate from Spain.

We stayed one night in a hotel since our flight was on the 11th and reached Manila at 7pm the next day (Ph time).

Social Distancing Inside the Plane?

SocDis may not be as distant as you expect. Since seafarers on crew change usually travel in groups, the airline tends to keep you close together. Those who are traveling alone are mostly the ones given a one-seat-apart treatment.

For meals, they serve only one kind- a bread sandwich, a small slice of cake, water, and juice. At least this was what Turkish Airlines gave us. These are all packed in a nice brown bag and distributed to the passenger.

Sorry, but soft drinks, coffee, tea, milk, wine, beer, and other beverages are not served. Perhaps they are but upon request.

Arrival Manila

Before disembarking your ship, be sure to bring face masks and a face shield. This is a mandatory requirement for travelers arriving in the Philippines.

Here’s what you’re going to expect.

First off, always prepare a ballpen close to you. Airlines will ask you to fill out a Passenger Information Form or something similar.

On your last connecting flight to PH, aircraft staff or the airport staff in Manila will provide you with a Health Declaration Card on top of the Arrival Card.

QR Code

Follow the line. Front liners are there to assist you with where to go next. They will guide you where you must register on the Red Cross’ website for your personal information.

A free wifi is also provided named WeHealAsOne if my memory serves me right.

Fill out the info honestly, especially the ones with a red asterisk*.

Red Cross online e-CIF for Arriving Passengers
e-CIF form for Arriving Passengers.

At the end of your registration journey, a QR code will be provided which you can download and present to the Coast Guard Booth.

Smart Hack:
Actually, you can do this in advance even if you haven’t arrive in Manila yet  so when you get there, you only need to present the QR Code.

Swab Test

Booths for swab tests are available FREE of charge. After submitting your QR Code to the Coast Guard, you will be directed for a swab test.

There’s no special thing for you to do here except to brace yourself once the cotton buds hit you. Anyway, this should be very quick.


After your swab test, proceed directly to the immigration control. Present your Passport and SRB. You must also take out a mask and shield upon the officer’s request.

MARINA and OWWA Helpdesk

Before taking your luggage, you must first proceed to MARINA (sea-based) and OWWA (land-based) Helpdesk. They will coordinate with your agency for hotel and transportation.

Since our company already arranged transport and lodging for us, we didn’t wait too long in there except to verify that our ride was waiting.

Quarantine While Waiting for Result

It is required that Travelers must wait for the swab test result before they are allowed to travel any further. Hence, OWWA or your company provides free boarding and lodging while waiting.

Do you still remember the personal info you entered on the Red Cross website? They will email the RT-PCR test result which determines the fate of your arrival.


The result of your swab test comes as fast as one and a half days. During that time, you are not allowed to leave the hotel or quarantine facility.

Basically, you will receive two emails from the same sender. One is the COVID-19 RT-PCR TEST REPORT AND CERTIFICATION and a CERTIFICATION clearing the bearer to leave the quarantine facility and to return to residence as stated.

COVID-19 RT-PCR Test Result and Certification from the Philippine Red Cross Molecular Laboratory.

Return to Residence

After getting the result, you can travel and return to your home. This should be no problem for those living in Manila. Just always be ready to show the certificates when authorities ask for them. Screenshots are okay.

But for seafarers whose place of residence is in the provinces, this will be quite difficult.

Aside from the certificates sent by the Red Cross, you must also obtain additional permits mainly the Quarantine Certificate and the Travel Pass or Travel Authority.

Travel Authority Certificate
Obtained from the PNP Booth inside the airport.

Travel Authority can be obtained in the airport PNP Booth. I didn’t have the actual Quarantine Certificate as the RT-PCR Certificates were enough.

Additional Requirements

Moreover, you must coordinate with your local government unit. They will ask for a screenshot copy of your PCR Test results (email from Red Cross), flight itinerary, travel pass, and proof of residency.

These requirements may vary from LGU to LGU that’s why you must coordinate with them first.

To avoid surprises, it is very important to go to the airport at least 3 hours before your flight. The airline may ask for additional documents or certificates if deemed necessary.

Final Thoughts

The crew change mentioned above is through the airline only. There may be different processes for those conducting crew changes in Philippine ports.

But the system; RT-PCR Tests, quarantine restrictions, travel passes and many others may still be similar.

Also, seafarers residing in the provinces can avail of the sweeper flights provided by OWWA. These flights are free of charge.

OWWA provides meals and all other things necessary for seafarers and OFWs until they reach their homes or are taken care of by their local LGU.

In some instances, shipping companies manage the seafarer’s necessities; hotels, meals, and flights.

But in my case, our company only shouldered the hotel including meals. Transportation going to the airport and the airline ticket were charged to my account.

I was not aware of the sweeper flights going on and since I was very eager to go home, I didn’t take the time to look for it. Instead, I booked a domestic flight to Tacloban which was actually very cheap.

How was your crew change experience?

May the winds be in your favor.



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