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China signals further relaxation of crew change restrictions

The government is targeting about 10,000 Chinese crew members whose service agreements or contracts will expire by end-May and who will need to take shore leave, say officials at a State Council press conference

But changes of foreign crew members who have stayed in countries with severe infections in the past 14 days are not encouraged at Chinese ports

CHINA’S top-level administrative body has sent a signal that the country is to further relax a crew change ban at its ports after Shanghai’s easing policy.

Officials at a State Council press conference said that the government was targeting about 10,000 Chinese crew members whose service agreements or contracts will expire by end-May and are due for shore leave.

“How to do the virus-control work well for the entry of these seafarers is one of our key tasks right now,” said China Maritime Safety Administration deputy director Yang Xinzhai, who was invited to speak to the press.

The remarks came after the country’s transport ministry, which oversees the CMSA, said last week that it would co-ordinate an effort with all relevant parties to solve the issue in an ad hoc approach. Shanghai, home to the world’s busiest container port, subsequently published rules that allow crew replacement, although they are subject to a 14-day quarantine period.

The overall preventive measures on seafarer disembarkment announced by Mr Yang were largely in line with Shanghai’s version.

Crew members must complete the 14-day quarantine starting from the time their vessels leave the last port. They will be allowed to go ashore if there is no suspected or confirmed case on board.

For ships that have a sailing time of less than 14 days, seafarers on board must complete the remaining days of isolation on land, according to the regulations of the local ports and governments.

After being released, their health status will be followed up by the shipping companies employing them, or their crewing agents, and reported to the relevant authorities.

However, any change of foreign crew members who have stayed in countries with severe infections in the past 14 days will, in principle, not be arranged at Chinese ports, according to Mr Yang.

Industry sources say that although the MoT has issued a policy guideline on managing crew changes in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the implementation of the essential operational moves is still on a case-by-case basis and varies at different local ports.

Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration recently said it had permitted a crew change on Josoco Star, a Hong Kong-flagged containership, a week ago at the port of Nanjing.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence data shows that the 1,043 teu ship is beneficially owned by Jiangsu Ocean Shipping Co, a company ultimately controlled by the provincial government in Jiangsu.

The vessel serves on the China-Japan trade and is expected arrive in Tokyo later today.

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