Current Covid-19 rules for Chinese ports, ships, crew

Norway-based insurer Skuld and Chinese club correspondent Huatai have provided an update on the current situation for the shipping industry in China.

All Chinese ports were currently open and fully operational.

With the number of new infections slowing down in China compared to the initial outbreak, the movement of Chinese crew and the movement of local surveyors within China has become much easier. However, authorities remained hesitant to allow foreign crew into China.

Skuld understood that it was nearly impossible to arrange embarking and disembarking of non-Chinese seafarers. The Club therefore recommended against any planned crew change of non-Chinese crew in Chinese ports.

However, if a crew member became seriously ill or suffered an injury, or if there is any other emergency situation, disembarkation of that particular crew member would most likely be approved by Chinese authorities, Skuld understood according to information it had been provided.

As the situation was quite fluid, Skuld recommended that members not only keep their claims handler advised, but also that they liaise closely with local agents well in advance of a vessel’s arrival, in case a sick or injured seafarer needs to be disembarked in a Chinese port.

Huatai noted that the Chinese government had implemented a strict entry policy. With effective from March 28th 2020 visas and residence permits for foreign nationals were temporarily suspended.

In the marine sector, sending crew ashore was severely restricted. These policies could create obstacles in situations involving the disembarkation of injured or sick crew.

Huatai said that it had recently received inquiries from Clubs/Shipowners regarding disembarkation of a crew member who needed urgent medical assistance.

A multi-sectoral joint guideline from the Ministry of transport, Ministry of foreign affairs, State Health Commission, General Administration of Customs and State Administration of Immigration was published on April 12th. The aim was  to solve the difficulties that might arise in the disembarkation of injured or sick crew members. The joint guideline gives guidance on emergency rescue and treatment of such crew during the epidemic prevention & control period.

The Guideline requires that:

Treatment of injured/ill crew in Chinese ports

1)When a ship requests for rescue in a Chinese port, rescue measures shall be implemented for injured/ill crew regardless of whether they belong to the “four categories of personnel” or not. If necessary, the crew shall be transferred to the relevant medical institutions where the port is located for medical treatment to ensure that the crew is rescued in time. After receiving the ship’s rescue request, the Maritime Search and Rescue Centre under its jurisdiction shall timely collect the information of the crew to be rescued and the health status of all the crew on board. Relevant Maritime Administration shall report to the Customs, Border Inspection and local people’s government (including health department) according to the procedures and cooperate with relevant departments to confirm the epidemic situation on board. When COVID-19 infection case is confirmed on board, proper treatment methods for “four categories of personnel” shall be implemented.

Four categories of personnel refer to:

  • AA. the COVID-19 confirmed patients
  • BB. suspected COVID-19 infected patients
  • CC. patients who cannot be excluded from COVID-19 infection
  • DD. close contacts of COVID-19 confirmed patients

2)The Maritime Search and Rescue Centre shall coordinate the rescue operations in accordance with the relevant emergency response procedures, cooperate with the relevant departments in accordance with the relevant provisions of the local people’s Government and rescue the injured crew in a timely and safe manner.

3)When necessary, the Maritime Administration shall focus on maintaining the traffic order at sea in the process of crew transfer and rescue and cooperate with the relevant departments to carry out rescue work.

4)The relevant local departments shall inform foreign crew’s embassy and consulate in China according to the rescue conditions.

Huatai said that its Dalian office recently successfully arranged the repatriation of an Ethiopian 1/E who suffered suppurative synovial arthritis. The Guangzhou, Xiamen, Shanghai, Ningbo offices also handled crew injury cases and arranged proper treatment for the crew ashore.

However, Huatai said that it had to go through complex procedures of getting permission from various local authorities, such as Border-Port Quarantine Department, Marine Safety Administration, Exit and Entry Administration Department, Immigration Inspection Station, without any of those authorities being omitted.

Huatai said that the local authorities of Chinese ports were now optimizing crew rescue procedures. It said that it was optimistic and trusted that past obstacles in disembarkation of injured or ill crew in Chinese ports would be overcome, albeit “step by step”.

In addition, the joint guideline also covered the requirements in situations involving Chinese injured or sick crew on Chinese flagged ships abroad, as well as Chinese injured or sick crew on foreign flagged ships abroad.