Denied Access to the Pier, Officer Dies in Attempt to Read Draft Marks

Maritime association faults China's strict COVID-19 restrictions for the casualty

Tianjin Yuanhang Ore Terminal (file image courtesy TPFC)

Published Feb 1, 2022 6:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

COVID-19 restrictions on movement contributed to the death of a ship's officer at the port of Tianjin on Saturday, according to a Turkish maritime industry association. 

Last weekend, the bulker Mathilde Oldendorff was moored alongside the Yuanhang Ore Terminal in Tianjin. The first officer, identified as Turkish national Selçuk Elibol, went to read the draft marks on the stern. He was not allowed to come down the gangway and read the marks from the pier - the preferred method - because China's stiff restrictions on COVID-19 quarantine forbid it. Instead, he rigged a pilot ladder from the rail and climbed over the side to read the marks. He slipped in the process and fell 30 feet on to the concrete pier, according to Hurriyet. Despite medical attention, he did not survive. His body will be repatriated to Turkey once official procedures have been completed, the outlet reported. 

In a statement, the Turkish Maritime Federation (Türkiye Denizcilik Federasyonu) said that Elibol's death has deeply saddened the nation's maritime community. "Because the port authorities would not allowed him to go on shore, he fell from the [ladder] and has died," the federation said. 

The organization said that the restrictions at Tianjin were just the latest example of a pattern of tightening limits on the movements of seafarers - starting with the post-9/11 security measures of 2001 and culminating in the near-total suspension of shore leave experienced by many mariners in today's COVID-conscious world. 

"Seafarers working on ships that stay in the port for a short time after long voyages [have been] deprived of even the right to access health services, which is one of the human rights," the organization noted. "With the travel restrictions, crewmembers have difficulty returning to their loved ones. At the same time, as can be seen in the latest tragic incident, seafarers are exposed to inhumane treatment."

The federation said that it would work with international institutions to create binding rules to "put an end to the inhumane practices" of preventing seafarers from coming ashore.