The Chinese government has opened up 10 ports for crew change. These ports are Dalian, Tianjin, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Haikou.
The crew change notice, issued by the Ministry of Transport, introduces a quarantine circuit-breaker mechanism.
It stipulates that a shipping company’s foreign crew change operations will be suspended for 15 days if there are five COVID-19 cases detected in their fleet; or suspended for 30 days if there are 10 COVID-19 cases in their fleet. If there are more than 10 positive cases found in its fleet, the shipping company will not be allowed to undertake crew change until it passes a fresh assessment conducted by the relevant authorities.
Foreign crew signing off must comply with Chinese entry and staying regulations during the epidemic period.
The disembarking point must have a facility to arrange “point-to-point” transfers to the outbound gate within the same city. The ship must have left the last foreign port of call in more than 14 days.
The crew on board must maintain a sound health and quarantine record, and the on-signing and off-signing seafarers have to produce a negative COVID-19 test.
The shipping company is also required to rent a car to transfer the foreign crew from the disembarking point directly to the outbound gate point within the same city, or to embark another outbound ship immediately upon disembarking.
In addition, all shipping companies are advised to closely monitor the port’s local quarantine conditions.
“BIMCO’s [Baltic and International Maritime Council’s] understanding that the various Chinese ports may take different pragmatic approaches when dealing with the foreign crew change,” said BIMCO in a statement. “In practice, the final say lies ultimately with the local port government [the city’s leading group office of epidemic prevention and control] instead of the MOT [Ministry of Transport] in Beijing.”
As such, BIMCO recommends that members planning to implement crew change in China consult their local agents for the latest requirements implemented by the port in question. Worldwide travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted crew change.
The International Maritime Organization estimates that 400,000 seafarers from across the globe are now working beyond their contractual period on ships, a trend that could take a toll on the crew’s mental health.