Hong Kong Suspends Crew Changes Except for Cargo Ships in Port
Hong Kong announced that effective July 29, the government was further restricting crew changes as part of an effort to tighten testing and quarantine arrangements due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the region. The move had been widely anticipated when Hong Kong began to experience an increasing number of cases after relaxing restrictions for crew changes.
Under the new policy, Hong Kong is only permitting vessels bringing cargo for the city to enter the port and carry out crew changes. Crew changes from passenger ships and commercial vessels not transporting goods to Hong Kong are being suspended. In addition, the quarantine and testing requirements for the crew on cargo ships as well as airplane crews are being further restricted.
A spokesperson for the government said in a prepared statement, "Goods vessels coming to Hong Kong for loading and unloading of cargos are essential for the supply of daily necessities and services to Hong Kong.” They said that goods including food, anti-epidemic supplies, and medical materials, were important to maintaining the smooth operation of Hong Kong. “The Government considers that crew members of these cargo vessels should be exempted from compulsory quarantine to allow them to undergo crew change in Hong Kong. We believe that after tightening the relevant conditions, public concerns about the public health risks can be suitably addressed."
Earlier in the month, Hong Kong had announced efforts to tighten the restrictions on crew members but had not limited crew changes to only vessels already conducting cargo operations in the port. Crew members working aboard vessels arriving in Hong Kong are now being told that they should remain aboard their ships for the entire period they are in Hong Kong.
Any crew members that will be signing-off cargo ships in Hong Kong are being told that they must stay on their vessels until they can travel directly to the airport and immediately board an outbound airplane. As with the enhanced restrictions recently announced, incoming crew members arriving at the airport should possess a negative nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted within 48-hours before their departure. Arriving crew members should also go directly to their vessels and not stay onshore. The restrictions now include that the use of public transportation that is also serving the general public at the same time is prohibited, and that crew members should wear masks during their entire journey.
Crew members arriving in Hong Kong who do not possess negative test results from an accredited lab will be denied entry. In addition, shipping companies/agents that fail to comply with the conditions will also be denied crew change arrangements in Hong Kong.
The spokesperson added, "On the premises of protecting the health of Hong Kong and safeguarding Hong Kong's robust healthcare system, we have further tightened the testing and quarantine arrangement for exempted persons arriving Hong Kong. The Government will continue to closely monitor the latest situation of COVID-19 around the world and review the quarantine and testing arrangements for inbound travelers entering Hong Kong."
The decision to reverse its prevision decisions to permit unrestricted crew changes came after several high profile incidents involving ships and growing public pressure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.