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July 13, 2020

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Amid pandemic, a new policy brings sailors safely home

Eight sailors who worked 11 months at sea are safely back in China after authorities have introduced a new scheme to help seamen come home amid the coronavirus.

Eleven months is the limit for a crew member working on a ship continuously, according to international maritime rules. Normally a Chinese sailor working on a foreign route more than 11 months can disembark in an overseas port and fly home.

But because of the novel coronavirus pandemic many foreign countries have restricted access to sailors.

Crews are now aboard for longer, leading to health risks. A tired crew can also pose a risk to ship safety.

To prevent this hardship, local frontier inspection department has been cooperating with the harbor authority and shipping companies.

The relevant authorities will arrange for a ship not passing through China to transfer its Chinese crew members to a ship bound for China at a point where their routes intersect.

The eight sailors had been aboard the Belgium, an ultra-large container ship, operated by China COSCO Shipping Group, which had docked at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

They boarded COSCO’s Virgo, manned by six other Chinese crew members, which departed Rotterdam in May for Shanghai.

The Virgo arrived in Shanghai’s Yangshan Deep-Water Port on Saturday, the Maritime Day of China, according to the frontier inspection department.

They tested negative for the coronavirus on Saturday before they left the ship.

The authority will also check their travel history in detail and the health of the crew to ensure that there are no health risks.

The Virgo did not pass through regions hard hit by the virus. They have been sent to a designated place for quarantine and further medical observation.

As of Saturday, a total of 144 Chinese sailors employed by COSCO have left or boarded ships after 11 months.


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