China opens 10 ports to crew changes

Ten Chinese ports will resume foreign crew change operations with certain requirements in place, taking into account the current COVID-19 situation.

The 10 ports include Dalian, Tianjin, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Haikou. 

The move was announced by seven major Chinese institutions last week including the Ministry of Transportation (MOT), BIMCO said.

According to a notice issued by Chinese institutions, a quarantine circuit-breaker mechanism will be introduced.

The mechanism mandates that a shipping company’s foreign crew change operations will be suspended for 15 days if there were 5 tested positive cases detected in their ship aggregate, or suspended for 30 days if there was found 10 tested positive cases in their ship aggregate.

If more than 10 tested positive cases are found, the shipping company will not be allowed to operate until they pass a fresh assessment conducted by the relevant authorities. 

The decision is expected to bring the much-needed relief to the ongoing humanitarian crisis faced by seafarers, with over 400,000 seafarers stuck at sea and 400,000 more unable to join ships amid COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

The situation has left seafarers in dire conditions amid extended times at sea resulting in physical and mental strain.

Industry bodies have been urging for governments for months now to designate seafarers as key workers in order to expedite their travel, and enable overworked crews to sign off.

However, over six months into the pandemic national governments remain reluctant to do so, bringing the crisis to a tipping point as concerns arise over the safety of shipping.

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