Solution found to end MSC Anastasia’s crew change ordeal

The ordeal of seafarers on board MSC Anastasia, a bulk carrier that has been stuck off China’s coast since September 2020, has finally come to an end.

Illustration; Image credit MSC

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has been calling for months for an urgent crew change solution for Anastasia, which, like dozens of other ships, has been stuck near the port of Caofeidian.

Many of the crew members have been at sea for several months longer than was initially anticipated due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions and ultimately unable to sign off in China due to trade issues between China and Australia.

“MSC understands that the company which initially chartered Anastasia from MSC had sub-chartered the vessel to a third party and that the commercial parties involved in the selling and buying of the cargo onboard were caught in the ensuing political uncertainty around the trade issue,” MSC explained.

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“MSC tried to convince the chartering and commercial parties in control of the vessel and its cargo to allow a crew change in various locations before it arrived in Chinese waters, and again while it was at anchorage outside the Chinese Port of Caofeidian, although COVID-19 protective measures closed off many options in China which would normally have been available.”

MSC added that it had prioritized the Japanese option as the quickest and most efficient way to provide the necessary relief for the crew and to enable the ship to continue in service as it may be required by the charterers.

After several failed initiatives, there was a rising concern for the well-being of the seafarers.

“MSC, which maintains the vessel and organises its crew, having exhausted all possible options for crew change including efforts at a diplomatic level between Indian and Chinese authorities, was left with no other option but to advise the master of Anastasia to make a short hop to Japan on 4 February after already grave concerns for the
safety and well-being of the seafarers intensified,”
the company said in a statement.

“MSC is pleased to note that the Chinese and Indian governments seem, according to official remarks reported by media since the vessel left for Japan, to have endorsed a crew change on Anastasia.”

As informed, 18 seafarers, mostly of Indian nationality, are scheduled to disembark from Anastasia on February 10, 2021 and undergo thorough medical examinations before being repatriated by MSC to reunite with
their families.