After denying media reports that China was banning Indian crewmembers from changing crews due to COVID-19 fears, China’s transport ministry confirmed it was blocking crew changes for at least less 30 days from some recruitment agencies and management companies. Chinese officials said action was taken after positive cases of the virus were found among disembarking crew members.
Chinese officials have raised concerns about an increase in COVID-19 cases, saying the country has reached a six-month high in the number of cases as well as new variants of the virus. A total of nine ship management companies were reportedly told that they would not be allowed to make crew changes or that crew members on board ships they manage to disembark for at least 30 days. This is not the first time that China has banned individual companies from disembarking crew members. In February, China singled out two other companies saying they had crew members with cases of the virus.
Indonesia opens crew changes to everyone except Indian and South African crews.
The Chinese government is not allowing all of these ships to enter the port just for the reason that the whole company has stopped calling all sailors from India. pic.twitter.com/6yvmJoqSm6
– Union of Indian Sailors (@AllSeafarers) July 23, 2021
Last Friday, July 23, the All India Seafarer & General Workers Union issued a letter to the Minister of Ports and Seaways stating that since March, Chinese authorities have not allowed ships with Indian crew members to enter their ports. The union called on the government to investigate the situation, saying up to 20,000 Indian sailors were at home because they could not find work due to unofficial Chinese policies. Other Indian officials confirmed the union’s accusations, saying they had experienced similar situations.
When asked about the information in Indian media, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a regular press briefing today: “We can confirm after verification that China has never imposed the so-called unofficial ban that you mentioned. Relevant Indian media reports are not true.
As of last summer, China has also denied reports of boycotts related to the import of coal and other trade from Australia. At the time, they were charged with a trade embargo after Australia called for investigations into the origins of COVID-19 and blamed the Chinese. Many bulk carriers found themselves stranded offshore as Chinese authorities said it was COVID-related restrictions at local ports that were blocking ships. Crews were reported to be stranded for six months or more, with governments, including India and Italy, stepping in to help MSC and other Indian ship operators make crew changes.