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Shanghai eases crew change ban

Crew members will be allowed to go ashore. But before going home, those workers on vessels from 24 countries deemed to pose high infection risks must complete a 14-day quarantine period starting from the time they leave the last port. This will be based on deck log records

Despite the move to avoid draconian impositions on crew movement, the Shanghai government asks shipping firms to 'try as much as possible' to reduce the crew changes on vessels from the 'key countries'

SHANGHAI has begun to allow crew changes as China increases efforts to relieve seafarers stranded on ships due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The relaxation comes as the country’s transport ministry said last week it would co-ordinate an effort with all relevant parties to solve the issue in an ad hoc approach, having encouraged shipping firms to make timely arrangements for the discharge of crew members overdue for shore leave.

In a notification published on March 20, the municipal government cited 24 “key countries” with a high risk of infection. They are South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan, France, Spain, Germany, the US, Britain, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Australia, Malaysia, Greece, the Czech Republic, Finland, Qatar, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

It stipulated that before their release, crew members on vessels from those countries must complete a 14-day quarantine period starting from the time they leave the last port based on deck log records.    

For ships that have a sailing time of less than 14 days, seafarers on board must be isolated for the remaining days in accommodations arranged by the shipping companies employing them or their shipping agents — except for those who have a fixed residence in Shanghai and hence may choose to home quarantine.

However, the disembarkation will not be permitted if there are any cases of suspected or confirmed infections on the ships.

Still, the Shanghai government asked shipping firms to “try as much as possible” to reduce the crew changes on vessels from the “key countries”. 

A recent survey by the China Shipowners' Association of 54 major Chinese shipping companies found the number of their crew on coastal and international trading ships — who ought to be discharged based on the Maritime Labour Convention rules — will have exceeded 20,000 by end-May

The coronavirus pandemic has left crew around the world in a precarious position, with national travel bans threatening their access to ports. This has led global industry bodies to step in to ask for relief. 

Last week, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation sent a joint letter to the heads of United Nations agencies, stressing the importance of seafarers in the circulation of global trade and the integrity of supply chains.

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