In a letter published in the South China Morning Post, Bjorn Hojgaard, chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association and Roberto Giannetta, chairman, Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association, addressed media reports about the “irresponsible behaviour” of a few in the shipping industry.
“A few rotten apples have brought disrepute to their peers and the industry, which has been working hard to ensure the smooth operation of the world’s supply chain for essential items such as food, fuel and medical supplies, during this most difficult time.
“We are extremely disappointed with this. We have urged international and local unions to remind their members to strictly follow all rules, protocols and precautionary measures set by port authorities and shipping companies to protect public health. We have also suggested the government impose penalties on any parties who break the rules,” the letter said.
Hong Kong had allowed unrestricted crew change from 9 June, but from 29 July this has been restricted to only vessels carrying out cargo operations in the port, following a number of Covid-19 cases involving sea and air crew. Testing requirements have also been introduced.
The letter noted that the associations had advised their members to take additional precautions when unrestricted crew change was allowed from 9 June, including all seafarers to have a negative Covid-19 test before arriving in Hong Kong.
“We also recommended other possible precautionary measures to the government. These included requiring all seafarers to test negative again on their arrival in Hong Kong and imposing penalties on companies and individuals breaking the rules,” the letter said.
On 20 July, with local infections on the rise, the two associations asked their members to postpone crew changes by at least three weeks.
The letter concluded: “Once again, we would like to stress that like other ‘key workers’, seafarers are essential for the global community to fight this battle against the virus. Without these heroes at sea, world trade would come to a halt. If any of them are unfortunately infected, they deserve our support, not bias.”
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