China’s zero tolerance for COVID-19 and strict border controls continue to have serious consequences for crews and ships calling at ports across the country, especially if crew members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Treatment of COVID-19 positive crew cases in China
China’s zero tolerance policy towards COVID-19 has proven to be very stressful for the crews of many ships, and difficult and costly for ship operators. Ships arriving at Chinese ports are currently facing strict epidemic control measures. We understand that measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also differ from one Chinese port to another. Port control measures can also be modified in the short term due to localized epidemics and regional lockdowns. In addition, port congestion and delays due to the shortage of essential shore personnel, such as pilots, terminal personnel and surveyors, are not uncommon. Additionally, in the unfortunate situation where one or more crew members on board a ship have tested positive for COVID-19, it has often proven difficult to obtain appropriate medical assistance, and delays and associated costs resulting therefrom would be substantial. In some Chinese ports, ships with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on board have even been refused entry for cargo operations or shipyard repairs.
On a positive note, the Chinese State Council recently issued an advisory (No. 2021 ) announcing its implementation of a set of joint COVID-19 prevention and control mechanisms applicable in all regions of China. The goal is to maintain the shipping supply chain and the rights of crew members. Please see Oasis Circular #: 2109 for more details.
We strongly recommend that captains, well before arriving in a Chinese port, seek advice from local port authorities and ship agents on the restrictions and other preventive measures currently in place.
Ship operators are encouraged to closely monitor the evolution of the epidemic and the areas affected by COVID-19 at all times, in addition to continuing to promote vaccinations and compliance with proven health measures such as the use masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene. They should also review their crew change management plans and implement any relevant recommendations set out in the revised IMO-supported protocols for crew changes and movements and provide their fleets with change kits. COVID-19 test as additional insurance for port authorities.
For ships with positive COVID-19 crew cases in or bound for Chinese ports, we would like to highlight the following:
Retain evidence to support how the ship’s COVID-19 prevention plans were executed and implemented on board. It is important for ships with infected crew to follow available IMO and industry COVID-19 guidelines, as well as local requirements at Chinese ports, to improve crew awareness and prevent the spread of the virus. Evidence of all measures taken, such as proper training, body temperature / health monitoring, etc. is important. If a crew change takes place at the last port of call, or within 14 days of arrival at Chinese ports, the joining crew must pass PCR tests within three days of embarkation and wear protective clothing. documents showing negative test results for COVID-19, from institutions designated or recognized by Chinese embassies and consulates.
Check local policies regarding handling of positive COVID-19 cases on board before arranging for the ship to enter a Chinese port. As soon as one or more COVID-19 positive crews are confirmed on board the vessel, it is essential to contact the vessel’s local agent, or one of Gard’s local correspondents in China, for the latest requirements. prevention and control of the epidemic in the Chinese port and take necessary actions to avoid delays and reduce the costs incurred. The local agent should be asked to provide an estimate of the additional costs that will be incurred. To avoid delays or excessive additional costs, Members may also consider skipping a stopover or repatriating the ill crew member to another port.
Appoint a local correspondent / lawyer at an early stage. In addition to obtaining the information and estimates recommended above, it is also useful to appoint a local Gard correspondent or a local lawyer to get a better assessment of the situation in Chinese ports and to scrutinize the reasonableness of the expenses incurred. They could, for example, attend meetings with local authorities on issues such as quarantine requirements for shore personnel required to interact with the vessel, monitor the agent’s negotiations with relevant third parties regarding berthing, cargo operations, disinfection, pilotage, and departure plan, as well as advising and negotiating costs at a reasonable rate.
Appoint agents on behalf of the member to deal with the COVID-19 situation. Members may consider co-appointing an agent with the charterer, or appointing a protection officer on their own behalf, to advocate for their interests in handling the entry and departure of the vessel. This is best done early on, as a change of local agent is usually not possible once an agent has made initial contact with local authorities regarding the case. The local Gard correspondents can assist you in your recommendations.
Request that any amount paid be a deposit which will be submitted for future approval by Members after review of the supporting documents. Certain expenditure items, allegedly invoiced by third parties, are sometimes not justified by invoices or receipts before the departure of the vessel. Members are recommended to agree with Agents that any money paid to them is not a final settlement but rather a down payment or cash deposit which will be subject to other vouchers including, but not including limit, final invoices, valid tax invoices, and proof of payment. Some members of the Gard have experienced excessive fees linked to:
Terminal charges: For ships engaged on international voyages, a charge for non-operational time at berth is calculated on an hourly basis. Unless cargo operations are confirmed, and where possible, it may be preferable that vessels do not berth, in order to avoid the excessive costs of non-operational berths and other vessel-specific charges. port, such as security, loss of revenue, etc.
Disinfection Fee: Whether or not the infected crew leaves the ship while in a Chinese port, ship disinfection is usually required by local customs. Since there are no standard fees for COVID-19 disinfection, it is not uncommon for disinfection companies to charge high rates. Members are advised, as far as possible, to request a quote including a specific disinfection plan and associated costs. We also recommend that captains record the activities of the disinfection company when they are carried out on board.
Quarantine costs: Officers and pilots on board the vessel, as well as handlers engaged in the operation of the cargo, can be classified as close contacts of the infected crew and be considered “senior personnel.” risk âsubject to mandatory quarantine. The cost of personal protective equipment, accommodation, meals and even loss of income during the quarantine period can be claimed by third-party companies.
Seek help from other officials. Depending on the specific circumstances, Members and Captains may sometimes find it useful to call the 24-hour public service hotline for assistance (dial 12345, preceded by the country code and area code). regional if calling from outside the port city), or ask the embassy or consulate of the infected crew / member to coordinate and help resolve any issues. It should also be noted that the Chinese Ministry of Transport recently announced the establishment of a special working group which can be contacted for assistance in the event of crew change issues at Chinese ports (Phone: + 86 10 65299809 / Email: [emailÂ protected]). However, at the time of writing, the group’s mission is to assist crew changes for Chinese sailors only.
P&I Coverage for COVID-19 Crew Claims
During the pandemic, we are seeing somewhat different and more complex claims than what we have seen before. It is not always easy for our Members to differentiate between operational expenses and recoverable insured costs. In our insight article from December 14, 2021, we summarize the key elements of coverage and tips on best practices for preparing claims documentation.
Regarding positive COVID-19 crew cases in China, some members report that Chinese authorities do not release medical reports that document positive COVID-19 test results, but instead communicate test results via WeChat or by phone. In order for members to document positive test results, we recommend that screenshots of test results received through WeChat be taken and, if received by phone, that an official record be kept. In addition, a written request for the test results should be addressed to the Chinese authorities.
We also suggest that Members consider negotiating and including a COVID-19 clause in their charter parties. Local port restrictions, not just in Chinese ports, may change in the short term, and a ship with COVID-19 positive crews on board may be denied entry to port, quarantined, or delayed for a long time. another way while incurring significant costs. It is recommended that shipowners and charterers agree on an appropriate COVID-19 clause to ensure a fair distribution of future COVID-19 risks between the parties.
Sources of information
The Gard COVID-19 hot topics page contains a compilation of links to relevant Gard websites, guidelines and other documents that can help vessel operators, masters and crews stay vigilant and prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The International Group of P&I Clubs (IG) has an interactive tool that can help vessels charter, operate and prepare staff for what to expect upon arrival in port. The tool obtains data from thirteen IG clubs, IMO, WHO and other sources. Access to the interactive tool is available via the IG website: https://www.igpandi.org/covid-19.