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Hong Kong crew change suspension dismays unions

An open letter to key government officials expressed unions’ disappointment with decision to suspend crew changes in the territory and urged a quick resumption of the service once the coronavirus outbreak in the city eases. The unions also spoke out against what they called a media smear campaign blaming crew change as a source of the third wave of outbreaks

The unions said they expected the government to improve the current policy and advocate the appropriate crew change in Hong Kong under the principle of securing public health and safety

TWO seamens’ unions in Hong Kong have expressed disappointment with the government’s decision to suspend crew changes at the port for vessels without cargo operations.

In an open letter to Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, secretary for transport and housing Frank Fan, chief secretary Matthew Cheung and director of the Marine Department Agnes Wong, the Merchant Navy Officers’ Guild-Hong Kong and Amalgamated Union of Seafarers, Hong Kong, said they were all “disappointed” with the government’s decision and strongly opposed “malicious attacks and the media smear campaign towards crew change as a major source of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The two unions further said they “severely condemn those irresponsible and spiteful comments against ship crew and crew change practices”.

They pointed out that since the third wave of the pandemic broke out in Hong Kong over a week ago, no infections had occurred among frontline workers who have had close contacts with ships’ crews, including pick-up staff, crew from vessel transit service launches, staff at hotels providing temporary accommodation or anyone else associated with the crew change process.

Noting that only a small number of new infections came from the list of groups exempted from quarantine, which include air crew as well as cross-boundary truck and coach drivers to Macao and the mainland and certain categories of business people with manufacturing operations on the mainland, among others, the unions said it was unfair to blame seafarers and crew change operations for the recurrence of the pandemic in Hong Kong.

“Our unions expect the government to improve the current policy and advocate the appropriate crew change in Hong Kong, under the principle of securing public health and safety,” they added.

The two seafarers’ representative bodies strongly appealed for the “timely review” of the crew-change policy and testing and quarantine arrangements as soon as the outbreak situation improves in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong suspended crew changes for vessels not undergoing cargo operations in the port on July 27 as the government came under increasing pressure amid a third wave of coronavirus infections that have seen more than 100 new infections a day for over a week.

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