CCTV programme concerns four difficulties of seafarers during pandemic
The Mainland China Central Television programme “News Weekly” focused on the difficulty of disembarking, crew change, medical treatment and returning home for seafarers during COVID-19 pandemic. Maritime professionals said the problem of crew change is still serious, but lack of clear and compulsory guidelines, and various terminal have different prevention measures, the problem has not been resolved yet.
Gu Jianwen, Managing Director in China of an international ship management corporation, said a bulk carrier of his company that was originally scheduled to dock at a terminal in Guangzhou, was told by the terminal that they can only unload the goods but no change crew may take place. On that vessel, work contract of 17 seafarers had expired, and that of another 4 crew were overdue for more than 3 months. Two other vessels under their management that were originally scheduled to dock at two terminals in Shandong and Jiangsu had received similar response recently.
He described the problem of crew change as “very severe”, referring to the fact that if crew members sailing on international vessels disable to sign off for a long time, they are under great psychological pressure and physically exhausted. They need to take vacations on time according to their contract. International conventions and the International Maritime Organization also have related requirement, by which vessels may be arrested if crew change is overdue, thus impose great pressure on captains and may affect the safety of the vessel.
Gu believes that seafarers are the key role in the epidemic, as their works are essential in maintaining global trade and closely related to everyone’s life. However, these “key workers” are scarifying a lot, need not to say they have to pay a lot of money and go through numerous procedures for getting onboard, and the flight for them to get back home is largely reduced. In addition, Liang Jianwei, the former director of the Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration, pointed out in his article, that compared with the prevention measures of aviation, seafarers are facing four difficulties: difficulty in disembarking, difficulty in crew change, difficulty in treatment, and difficulty in returning home.
The Ministry of Transport of China has promulgated the seventh version of the pandemic prevention measures for seafarers, acknowledging that due to differences in epidemic prevention in various regions, crew change in individual terminals are not smooth. Gu Jianwen and Liang Jianwei believe that, in contrast to the guidelines for aviation epidemic prevention, those for terminals are not clear and compulsory, and the local governments have a lot of discretion between crew change and epidemic prevention.
The incident of dry bulker Grand Progress is evidence of how difficult of seafarers in the epidemic. At the end of July, after the vessel departed from the Philippines, one of the crew members suffered a fever and more members developed similar symptoms in a short time. In early August, the vessel stranded in Zhoushan waters and crew asked for help of the Zhoushan authorities. Infected crew members were not transferred to the hospital until 5 days later, and they were tested positive. Some are still being treated in isolation up to now.
The local port authority explained that because Zhoushan was not the destination port of the bulker, it was difficult to find a place to handle its situation. The municipal health commission also pointed out that because Zhoushan is a maritime transportation hub, there is a lot of pressure to prevent spreading of epidemics. There were many considerations when dealing with infected crew, for example due to the unstable weather on the next day, infected crew needed to be transported in the middle of the night. The disinfectant might also wash away by the rain. The authorities reduced the original 3 days of testing to 15 hours, and deployed medical experts and disinfection teams to work together. From the treatment of medical waste to where the patients received treatment, environments were strictly controlled.
Since April last year, China has completed more than 270,000 crew changes of international vessels, of which more than 1,600 seafarers were rescued. Foreseeing more tired seafarers need crew change, and many seafarers may need to be treated in the future, more precise anticipation and wisdom in humane policy making is in need.
SOURE: 28-8-2021 https://tv.cctv.com/2021/08/28/VIDErOM957xOwxuB1FNBeKHk210828.shtml?spm=C45404.PwbfZXOPSuvK.Efs3VZ5UgLgw.2 (10:33-18:28)