Responding to IMO guidance, as well as ICS and ITF calls to facilitate the essential movement of seafarers and marine personnel amid COVID-19 pandemic, China, one of the major seafarer exporting countries, has taken measures to facilitate crew change in a safe manner.
On 2 April, the Ministry of Transport issued the notice to strengthen the management of Chinese crew changeover on international navigation ships.
UK Club’s correspondents Huatai Marine provided a summary of its key points to help operators understand the crew change policy in Chinese ports.
The notice made it clear that shipping companies and seafarers’ manning agents shall carry out risk assessment on crew change:
A crew change plan shall ensure the crew is healthy for 14 days before embarkation.
The crew themselves shall carefully fill in the Health Record Registration Form for Sign-on Crew. Relevant materials shall be submitted to local authorities to get boarding permission.
For crew members who meet the health requirements, the “point-to-point” transportation shall be adopted from their place of residence to the ship directly.
In principle, there is no need for the crew to be further isolated at the locality of the port provided that the whole journey covers low-risk areas only and proper epidemic prevention and control measures are implemented.
For the sign-off crew:
Companies and seafarers’ manning agents shall formulate a crew disembarkation plan.
Crew shall fill in the Registration Form of Crew onboard Isolation Health Record. Relevant materials shall be submitted to local competent authorities.
The vessel intended to enter the Chinese port for operation shall report the crew health information to the maritime administration 48 hours prior to its ETA.
The different scenarios are as follows:
When the voyage is less than 48 hours, the vessel shall report immediately after leaving the previous port.
If the voyage from the last berthing point outside the territory to the domestic port is more than 14 days and the Registration Form of Crew on-board Isolation Health Record shows the crew member’s health condition is normal, they can go through the entry procedures and disembark after passing the customs health quarantine.
If the voyage is less than 14 days and the Registration Form of Crew on-board Isolation Health Record shows the crew member’s health condition is normal, they can go through the entry procedures and disembark after passing the customs health quarantine. They should also stay under quarantine observation at home or at a designated place according to the requirements of the local people’s government at the place of entry to complete the 14 days’ isolation.
If the Registration Form of Crew On-board Isolation Health Record shows the crew member’s health condition is abnormal or there is any abnormal health condition in the process of disembarking or during the customs health quarantine, the crew change shall be suspended immediately and be treated according to the epidemic prevention and control requirements. For crew member’s that is diagnosed as asymptomatic case, measures shall be taken in accordance with the relative national regulations.
The sign-off crew shall strictly abide by the relevant isolation requirements during the isolation observation period. During isolation period, they shall report their health conditions to shipping companies or manning agents on a daily basis. Local epidemic prevention policy should be followed if they need to go to other cities in China after the 14 days’ isolation.
Shipping companies or manning agents shall be responsible for reporting the relevant information to the local health department and shall be responsible for cooperating with the health management for the sign-off seafarers.
Although the Ministry of Transport has published this Notice to keep crew change in Chinese ports on track, as per our understanding from our local offices, there are still obstacles need to be overcome in practice.
Meanwhile, strict protective measures implemented by local port authorities are still effective in some ports.
For example, according to Huatai understanding, outside parties are still not allowed to enter into Luoyuan port (Fuzhou) at this moment.
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