MSC has called for an urgent crew change solution for the bulk carrier Anastasia, which is stuck off the coast of northern China.
China has prohibited crew changes at Chinese ports due to COVID-19 and Anastasia is among dozens of vessels in a waiting line near the port of Caofeidian.
MSC, as the technical operator of the ship, has repeatedly requested 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.
Additionally, MSC’s mid-December requests for a crew change at anchorage or in Japan, a few days sailing away, have not been carried out.
MSC has been in regular contact with the sailors and with their families ashore and is also supplying a clinical psychologist for remote support.
Many of the crew have been at sea for several months longer than was initially anticipated and 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 and its 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’s first attempt to change the crew of the Anastasia in Hong Kong in June 2020 and a subsequent attempt in early August was prohibited due to Hong Kong’s 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.
Further attempts were made during the period August to December in Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore and Busan but all were refused including as recently as December 17 after MSC suggested a potential deviation to Japan for crew change.
As the technical operator of the ship, MSC is unable to simply order the master to deviate to a port for a crew change as the vessel could be arrested as a result and would only perpetuate the problem, potentially resulting in the crew being onboard for even longer than necessary.
MSC has shared information with various authorities and encouraged governments to take an interest in forging a solution to the problem.
It has also brought the matter to the attention of the UN International Maritime Organisation and other international governmental and industry bodies.
MSC stated that it “is grateful for the people onboard, and their families ashore, for the extraordinary patience and courage they have shown and we stand with them in seeking an urgent solution to their situation.”