The crew of the MV Christine Oldendorff has been anchored at Caofeidian in Bohai Bay, near Beijing, since 26 August 2020. Now eight months stranded, with 20 on board for more than 18 months in total: they are desperate to get home to their families.
‘It’s expensive, but it’s the right thing to do’ – that’s the message from the global union body for seafarers as the ITF calls on shipping companies to pay the millions of dollars required to get seafarers off ships that remain stranded off the Chinese coast due to the country’s informal Australian exports ban.
“MSC has led the way by paying the necessary costs and penalties to charterers and cargo owners in order to rescue the crew of their ship, the Anastasia, and see them rescued from their six-month floating prison via a port in Japan,” said International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) President Paddy Crumlin.
“We call on all responsible shipowners to follow MSC’s lead and perform these long-overdue crew changes. It will be costly for these shipping companies, but it is absolutely necessary to preserve the health, lives, and human rights of these seafarers.”
“A number of seafarers have already attempted suicide on these ships, desperate to end their ongoing suffering. Health conditions are worsening. Medical supplies are running low on some vessels.”
“We are very concerned to hear reports that in some cases local Chinese authorities have blocked seafarers from accessing medical professionals, including urgently-needed hospitalizations,” Crumlin said.
More than 60 vessels are thought to still be unable to unload their Australian cargoes such as coal and undertake much-needed crew changes of the seafarers. A rising number of seafarers have been onboard vessels for longer than a year, with some as many as 20 months. Between three and six months of this time has been spent waiting off the Chinese coast.
Crumlin said that a long-term solution still required China to introduce protocols to allow for crew changes of all foreign seafarers. Until China brought in regular crew changes, he said that shipping companies had a humanitarian duty to preserve the lives and welfare of seafarers employed on their ships by diverting ships to neighboring countries.
“China has failed to put aside its bickering with Australia and respond to this man-made humanitarian disaster just kilometers from its coast. Australia, too, has too often put politics ahead of crew welfare. We call on the industry to step up where the governments have failed: show some leadership and get these desperate people off your ships. MSC has proven it is possible,” he said.