Seafarers stuck for months off coast of northern China

Relief for seafarers stuck onboard bulk carrier off coast of China is long overdue.

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company is calling for an urgent crew change solution for the bulk carrier “ANASTASIA”, which is stuck off the coast of northern China, and is among dozens of ships in a waiting line near the port of Caofeidian.

MSC has repeatedly requested during the ship’s voyage that the seafarers onboard should be relieved to return home to their families. These proposals have not yet been implemented by the chartering parties which determine the ship’s movements. 

China has prohibited a crew change at Chinese ports due to COVID-19 restrictions and MSC’s mid-December requests for a crew change at anchorage or in Japan, a few days sailing away, have not been carried out.

As the technical operator of the ship, MSC is very concerned for the well-being of these sailors and is in regular contact with them, and with their families ashore, as well as supplying a clinical psychologist for remote support. 

Many of the crew have been at sea for several months longer than was initially anticipated. After local authorities recently blocked MSC’s attempt to send a doctor to visit the ship in person, the company is currently seeking to remedy this through diplomatic channels.

MSC’s daily attempts to seek a solution follow several months of proposals to allow the vessel to make a port call that would facilitate crew relief.

MSC first attempted to change the crew of the ANASTASIA in Hong Kong in June 2020. A subsequent attempt in early August to change crew in Hong Kong was prohibited due to local authorities’ COVID restrictions. Japanese authorities later in August approved the vessel to berth at Mitusure Island in Japan, but the request was not implemented. 

During the period August to December, further attempts to permit a crew change in Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore and Busan were also refused, including as recently as 17 December 2020 after MSC suggested a potential deviation to Japan for crew change.

MSC is deeply concerned that none of these solutions have worked so far. MSC, as the technical operator of the ship, cannot simply order the master to deviate to a port for a crew change, as the vessel could be arrested as a result. This would only perpetuate the problem and may result in the crew remaining onboard for even longer than necessary.

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