China mulls COVID-19 prevention measures for seafarers

Shanghai port, China. Credit: Southern Cross Maritime

China‘s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said that it is reviewing shore leave arrangements for Chinese and foreign seafarers on oceangoing ships amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Chinese seafarers could be permitted to go ashore if the vessel logbooks indicate that they have been in good health in the 14 days prior to the ship’s arrival in Chinese ports. They must also pass the temperature checks set up at the entry points.

As the epicentre of the pandemic has shifted from China’s Wuhan to Europe, China is now containing the outbreak by limiting foreigners’ entry, in order to restrict the influx of imported cases.

Yang Xinzhai, deputy head of the Maritime Safety Administration, an agency of China’s MOT, said in a press conference that restricting access to foreign seafarers is part of the containment measures.

Yang said that based on paperwork submitted by ship agents, shipowners, and managers, it is estimated that around 100,000 Chinese seafarers will be arriving in their homeland on oceangoing ships.

Due to this, stringent epidemic control is necessary to prevent an inflow of imported COVID-19 cases during crew change-overs.

Yang also said that in cases where the voyage between the foreign port and Chinese port is less than 14 days, and the crew do not exhibit symptoms of ill health, the seafarers would still need to be quarantined for 14 days after arriving.

After the quarantine, the seafarers may return home if their residence is around the port of disembarkation. For seafarers whose residence is farther away from the port of disembarkation, they have to comply with local infection control procedures when commuting.

As for foreign seafarers, they will be barred from disembarking and changing shifts if the vessel had called at countries that are severely affected by COVID-19 in the 14 days prior. These countries include South Korea, Iran, and Italy.