State Council of PRC issued notice regarding epidemic control and assistance to crew members on ocean going vessels.
n order to implement more scientific epidemic control of crewmembers on ocean vessels, to maintain the order of the shipping supply chain and rights of the crew members, the State Council of PRC issued a notice to address these relevant issues.
Crew Change in China
According to the notice, as of 15th Feb 2022, international going vessels that plan to carry out crew change in a Chinese port shall arrange Covid-19 tests for all the crew members on board before the vessel sails from the last foreign port, and crew members who have tested positive shall be treated timely.
During the voyage, crew members shall be tested on a regular basis and those who have tested positive shall be quarantined urgently and treated properly to avoid spread of the virus.
Vessels shall report the test results together with port entry application documents to the maritime authorities at the first port of call of entering China, and in case there is any abnormality with the crew’s health, such information should be reported to the epidemic control command centre at the first port of call timely.
Covid-19 Tests to Crew on Ocean Going Vessels
For crew members who disembark from ocean going vessels, the customs shall conduct strict sampling and testing. For crew members who stay on board, the customs shall conduct the test if there are suspected or confirmed cases or close contact with such cases, or if the vessel applies to change to coastal operation or if there has been new on-signers within the last 14 days.
If the port operator promises in writing that there will be effective protection and minimum contact between the crew and shore personnel who attend on board, after approval by the epidemic control command centre, the customs can exempt the test for crew members that have signed on in the past 14 days but are staying on board.
For a vessel that plans to undergo repairs in a Chinese shipyard, the customs shall conduct tests to the whole crew on board at the vessel’s first port of call in China; during the repairs, the local epidemic control command centre will be responsible for deciding the frequency of tests to the crew and organize the tests accordingly.
Handling of Confirmed or Suspected Cases on Board
The local epidemic control command centre shall appoint the relevant organizations to send the confirmed cases, asymptomatic cases, suspected cases and crew members who have fever or respiratory symptoms or have been tested positive to designated medical facilities.
If such crew members cannot disembark from the vessel or need to return to the vessel and at the master’s application, after approval by the local epidemic control command centre, the crew member may return to the vessel with proper PPE and the vessel should depart China immediately.
Change of Chinese Crew on Ocean Going Vessels
The local epidemic control command centre should work out detailed procedures and requirements for crew change, and should respond to the ship’s crew change application timely. They should not use excuses such as “both Chinese and foreign crew members are on board”, “the time period since vessel’s departure from the last foreign port of call doesn’t meet with requirement” or “the vessel comes from a high epidemic risk area”, etc. to refuse or delay the crew change arrangement; in case there is indeed a special reason so that the crew change cannot be arranged at the first port of call, e.g., the port is listed as a middle and high risk area, the subsequent ports of call should not reject or delay the crew change arrangement for reason that they are not the first port of call in China.
The local epidemic control command centre should make reasonable allocation of resources such as hospital, facilities, sickbeds, test facilities and vaccination, etc., in order to meet the need of the disembarking crew members who sign off from an ocean going vessel. The reasonable needs of crew change and vaccination should be satisfied as far as possible.
The local epidemic control command centre should report the crew change application procedures and requirements, quarantine resources, testing abilities as well as the name, address, contact details of the crew change special handling team to their superior level. The provincial epidemic control command centres will summarize such information and report to the Ministry of Transportation before 01 Feb 2022 for publishing.
Crew members who sign off from an ocean going vessel, according to epidemic control protocol, should be quarantined for 14 days in a designated facility at the port of border entry, followed by another 7 day health observation and monitoring at his or her home. The detailed quarantine arrangement should be updated as and when the general quarantine policy on people entering the country is adjusted and announced from time to time.
In Appendix I of the notice, the detailed operation guidelines on change of Chinese crew are set out, including measures to be taken by the vessel and the operation procedures of the crew embarkation and disembarkation.
Assistance to Sick or Injured Crew Members
The local epidemic control command centre should work out and publicize the detailed procedures, requirements and fee rates on providing assistance to sick or injured crew members. They should make sure the arrangement is made actively, timely and effectively and should not reject or delay the application without a good reason.