Disembarkation and repatriation of crew who die on board are increasingly problematic

Efforts continue to repatriate the deceased Romanian captain of general cargo ship Vantage Wave (IMO 9506514) after seven weeks and refusal by several countries to accept the body prior to repatriation. Human Rights At Sea has claimed that the ship now faces food and water shortages as it awaits orders at an anchorage in China

Vantage Wave left India, bound for Huangpu New Port in Guangzhou, on April 15th. Four days later the Master passed away after suffering a suspected cardiac arrest. Covid-19 was not believed to have been a factor. Nevertheless, Covid-19 prevention measures have complicated the repatriation of his body.

HRAS said that  efforts were made to arrange for the disembarkation of the captain in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, all to no avail.

The vessel arrived at China’s Outer Guishan Anchorage on May 7th and remains waiting for berthing and discharge instructions. Guangzhou Municipal Government has not yet approved disembarkation of the body.

“Owners and crew members on board fully understand the COVID-19 pandemic prevention issues of the local government agency, but note that if the vessel cannot proceed to berth and disembark the body, and in addition to the fact that food and water supplies are running low, these factors are adding significant psychological pressure on the remaining crew,” HRAS said.

China in particular has been criticized for the difficulties it imposes when it comes to bringing the bodies of deceased crew back to their families.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has said it was aware of at least 10 cases during the past 15 months where seafarers had died of non-Covid causes, but local and national governmental authorities had blocked the return of those bodies to seafarers’ families back home.

China appeared to be insisting that only the ashes of cremated bodies can be returned home. “China’s policy to prevent burials and families’ time with the bodies of the deceased seafarers is exceptionally offensive,” said Fabrizio Barcellona, ITF Seafarers’ Section coordinator.

Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan have also reportedly denied families the return of the bodies of deceased crew.

2011-built, Liberia-flagged, 22,064 gt Vantage Wave is owned by V-wave Shipping care of manager Vantage Shipping Lines SA of Athens, Greece. It is entered with Gard P&I on behalf of Vantage Shipping Lines SA.