Delists Red Cross: CHINA FLEXES MUSCLE ON CREW CHANGE
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has restricted entry of foreign seafarers with disturbing consequences on Filipino merchant mariners.
Rubbing salt on the wound, PRC accredited only those laboratories in the Philippine into her favor, even surprisingly authorized nationwide by the Philippine Government. And more, China delisted the Phil Red Cross (also PRC).
Licensed manning agencies (LMAs) have cried out their difficulties in Chinese ports, even at other ports influenced by China. Net effect, Filipinos are being changed by Chinese seafarers as our nationals are barred entry on health protocols.
Another subterfuge is China labeling Australian coal worth $500m as poor quality, resulting into 66 bulk carriers with 5.7m tons and over 1,000 seafarers left stranded off the Chinese ports of Jungtang and Caofeidian.
This is another of Beijing’s response to Australia’s leading the charge to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. Earlier, China has banned a host of Australian products.
In 2019, China’s global purchases of coal totaled $18.9bn, almost 50% from Australia. Now,
China says Australian coal had failed to meet local environmental standards.
A crew of Knightship bulk carrier stuck at Jingtang over five months issued a public letter they are “…like political hostages and slaves owned by charter and cargo owners. This is a violation of human rights. We are humans and have rights for our freedom…”
Russia may serve an increased market but does not have the production. US and Canada may supplement with long-hauls Mongolia’s overland deliveries.
As political ploys continue, left agonizing are seafarers stranded, sick and stressed.
Senator Richard Gordon was agitated by data provided by the Phil Retirement Authority (PRA) showing 27,678 mainland Chinese availed of the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV); South Koreans, 14,144; Indians 6,120; Taiwanese 4,851; Japanese 4,016; Americans 3,704; Chinese from Hong Kong, 1,870; British 1,595; Germans 792; Australians 752; Others, 4,498.
The legislator fumed finding out the minimum age of mainland Chinese retirees was 35 years old, and the minimum requirement for retirement here is an investment of $50,000, just enough to purchase a condominium unit. “35 (years old) is too young!” he exclaimed, and stressed, “27,000 (people) is equivalent to 27 (military) regiments.”
He recalls before World War II, Japanese sleeper agents have posed as construction workers. “This is now a national security issue,” referencing to soft diplomatic policy towards Beijing.
On top, he has been critical of the Chinese vessels illegally fishing in Philippine waters, and the increasing number of illegal Chinese workers in POGOs, whom he had accused of spying.
Senator Nancy Binay, had expressed concern about the large bulk of mainland Chinese retirees. She asked pointblank PRA CEO Bienvenido K. Chy whether there is monitoring “these retirees aren’t illegally working in POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators)?”
Chy side-stepped Binay, stressing the SRRV policy was in place prior to his appointment. This infuriated Gordon even further, saying, “That’s not an excuse!” Chy was formerly head of the Bureau of Immigration’s Legal Division.
Gordon stressed, retirees are usually “between 50 and 60 years old,” and strongly suggested to Chy to “woo” more retirees from Taiwan, Korean, Japanese, Australia, and the United States.
Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, COO of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), had promised to share information on foreign retirees so PRA could revamp its retirement policy. The TPB is the marketing arm of the Tourism Department.
Red Cross and ALMA.
The Association of Licensed Manning Agencies (ALMA) Maritime Group Corp forged with Red Cross (PRC) for faster conduct of COVID-19 testing of Filipino seafarers to be deployed onboard.
ALMA’s over 100,000 seafarers from 49 manning agencies may have confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and related services at a much expedited and reduced cost.
The agreement accommodates a maximum of 1,300 crew members per day with results released within 72 hours for regular tests, 24 hours for stat tests, and 6 to 8 hours for super stat tests, from the time of swabbing.
Two primary testing methods are: The IgM/IgG Rapid Test and second, 7 the polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR), with these characteristics setting the two apart:
IgM/IgG Rapid Test Kits produce fast results; not identifying the genetic materials making up the novel coronavirus, but detect antibodies in a person’s system. It reads two types of antibodies: the immunoglobulin G(IgG) (delayed immune response) and the immunoglobulin M (IgM) (the early immune response).
One positive for both antibodies despite showing no symptoms, must self-isolate for 14 days before taking another IgM/IgG rapid test. If you test negative for IgG and positive for IgM without any symptom, you are infected. It is best to take an RT-PCR test to confirm.
If you test negative for both antibodies while showing no symptoms, your probability of infection is unlikely. To be sure, take another antibody test after seven days.
Although IgM/IgG rapid testing kits produce quick results, the test’s preciseness still depends on the sensitivity of the testing kit itself. There is a high chance of errors in the results. False negatives and false positives are common.
Antibodies only progress a few weeks after the infection. Thus, rapid coronavirus test kits may miss it in the earliest phases of the disease. A confirmatory RT-PCR test is needed on those who with a positive result in the rapid test.
RT-PCR Testing. The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a technique used for about 30 years in medicine and research to identify genetic information. An improved version is the reverse-transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR).
RT-PCR tests are reliable and sensitive and can produce accurate results within three to four hours. But, it will take more hours if the samples are to be sent to an external laboratory.
Licensed medical workers collect samples from a patient. Chemicals will be used to get rid of fats, proteins, and other molecules leaving RNA strands which are a combination of a person’s genetic material and the viral RNA that may be present in the system. The RT-PCR copies the RNA to DNA and is increased in size to detect viruses through a PCR machine.
Fluorescent markers are usually used to secure the amplified DNA and supply light. If the light’s intensity hits a certain threshold, it means the sample tested positive. Otherwise, is negative.
RT-PCR testing won’t be able to identify if an individual had contracted the virus and recovered from it. It only detects an active infection in a person’s system.
Chinese media report foreign crew change operations will resume in 10 Chinese ports of Dalian, Tianjin, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Haikou.
Shanghai issued a Notice for allowing change and disembarkation of foreign seafarers, like:
- Treatment of ill/injured crew members – file an application for rescue to the search and rescue center (maritime department) which shall notify the Customs, Border Inspection and Health where the ship is moored.
1. If not life-threatening, Customs shall complete the inspection and sampling on board. After receiving the test results, the shipping company shall securely transfer the ill/injured members to the relevant medical institutions for treatment. For those not in need to disembark, remote health guidance can be adopted.
2. If life-threatening and urgent medical treatment required, the shipping company should immediately transfer the ill/injured crew members to the isolation ward of the medical institution designated by the Health Department for treatment. If the Customs fails to take samples on board in case of emergency, the Health Department may arrange for joint sampling and joint testing at the hospital along with the Customs.
3. After the crew's treatment is completed, the crew member should return to the ship in time after completing treatment. If not possible to return: Chinese crew members should complete the 14-day quarantine; Foreign crew members’ shipping company shall arrange repatriation by air. If flight not available, the crew member should be quarantined. If the flight is difficult to be confirmed and the disembarkation period exceeds 14 days, the shipping company may arrange the crew member to stay at a suitable site and wait for the flight at its own will if the nucleic acid test is negative.
4. If the ill/injured crew members are examined to be the "four categories of personnel", the Health Department shall take measurements according to prevention and control plan. Customs shall immediately arrange testing of others on the ship, with further arrangement carried out according to the results.
The four categories of personnel refer to: aa. the COVID-19 confirmed patients bb. suspected COVID-19 infected patients cc. fever patients who cannot be excluded from COVID-19 infection dd. close contacts of COVID-19 confirmed patients.
- Change of Chinese crew:
1. The shipping company shall contact the crew member’s dedicated isolation point in advance following the requirements and provide the port supervision department with materials such as the log record, the crew member’s health information and the confirmation letter of booking the isolation room.
2. Pass the Customs quarantine and the first nucleic acid test is negative.
3. Signed off crew members shall receive centralized quarantine and health observation in this city and make up for the 14 days of quarantine. If the ship had crew change abroad within 14 days, the signed off crew member shall be quarantined for 14 days.
4. Nucleic acid test (the second nucleic acid test) shall be conducted two days prior to the end of the isolation. If the test result is negative, the isolation shall be relieved.
5. After the crew member has made up the isolation time and the second nucleic acid test is negative, the green health code could be provided.
6. The signed on crew member should have normal body temperature and green health code. Shipping companies are encouraged to arrange nucleic acid testing for sign on crew members to reduce the risk of cross-infection between ship and shore.
- Change of foreign crew
Signing off crew members:
1. The foreign crew members on board need to change shifts in this city and leave the country due to the expiration or termination of the contract or humanitarian reasons.
2. International ships that have left the last overseas port for more than 14 days, and no crew members have changed their shifts within 14 days before arriving at the port.
3. The shipping company shall formulate the shift plan in advance, submit to the Office of the Municipal Leading Group of Epidemic Situation for approval and book the outbound flights and special vehicles for transshipment.
4. The shipping company shall instruct the crew members to take personal protection measures and check their body temperature at least twice a day. The crew members shall fill in the health record and sign to affirm the information is true, the Master shall review and sign for confirmation. The Master’s health record should be reviewed by the Chief officer or other senior officers for confirmation. The shipping company should report crew members’ health information to Maritime and other port departments 48 hours before the ship arrives at the port.
5. After the ship arrives at the port, if there is no abnormality in the Customs quarantine and the nucleic acid test is negative, it shall be notified to the Frontier Inspection Department, which shall handle the temporary entry and disembarkation formalities.
6. Foreign crew members that being disembarked should “depart immediately after disembarkation” and detention in this city is not permitted. The shipping company shall arrange point-to-point transfer by special vehicles (cannot take public transportation) to directly transfer the sign off crew members from the vessel to the airport and depart taking the transfer flight or to other international ships in this port for departure.
7. Before the crew member’s repatriation, the ship shall wait at the port and may shift to the anchorage designated by the Maritime Department. The ship may leave the port after the crew member leaves the country. Container ships with tight shipping schedule may leave the port first subject to the approval of the Group for the Prevention and Control of Epidemics. The shipping company will transfer the sign off foreign crew to the crew isolation point with reception capacity to wait for the transfer flight, and then repatriate the crew to his own country.
8. If the entry nation or exit flights require nucleic acid testing reports for the foreign crew, the shipping company should contact qualified testing institutions in advance to conduct nucleic acid testing for foreign crew and issue reports.
Signing on crew members
1. If the foreign crew members need to enter the country and change their shifts in the city, the shipping company shall formulate a plan in accordance with the requirements and apply to the Foreign Affairs Office of the Municipal government through the Municipal Communications Commission. Visa invitation letters can be issued for foreign crew members who meet the requirements and liaise with our embassies abroad to issue Visas.
2. Shipping company should confirm the crew’s health condition is normal 14 days before boarding the ship and make sure of personal protection, body temperature should be taken twice a day. The crew member shall fill in the health record and sign for confirmation. The shipping company shall sign and seal the record for confirmation.
3. The sign on crew members shall arrive in Shanghai by flight as required. After arriving in Shanghai, the crew member shall join the ship after passing the entry quarantine. The shipping company shall arrange special vehicles (cannot take public transportation) from centralized isolation and inspection points to the ship. If it is necessary to postpone the sign on procedure, under special circumstances, the crew member shall wait at the centralized isolation point and transfer to the ship through the point-to-point secure transfer by special vehicles.
If the total number of crew members from one shipping company whose nucleic acid tests are positive on international sailing ships reaches the relevant provisions of the country, these shall be implemented:
aa. For the same shipping company’s international ships, if a total of 5 people found positive for nucleic acid test, all foreign crew shift-changing for this shipping company will be suspended for 15 days.
bb. If a total of 10 persons are positive in nucleic acid test, all foreign crew shift-changing for this shipping company will be suspended for 30 days.
cc. If there were more than 10 persons are positive in nucleic acid test, all foreign crew shift-changing for this shipping company will be stopped. Operation will not be permitted until the shipping company pass a fresh assessment.
- Foreign crew landing:
1. Foreign crew members who need to stay in Shanghai for a long time due to ship repair or other reasons and have stayed in Shanghai for more than 14 days.
2. The crew members from Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland or the foreign crew members holding other entry-exit certificates within the scope of the agreement on mutual exemption of visas with China have left the last overseas port for more than 14 days, and the ship has no crew change 14 days before arriving at the port.
1. Upon the approval of the Office of the Leading Group for Epidemic Prevention and Control where the shipyard is located, if there is no abnormality in the Custom’s quarantine and the nucleic acid test is negative, it shall be notified to the Frontier Inspection Department. The crew member shall be allowed to temporarily disembark for rest after the Frontier Inspection Department completes the crew’s boarding and disembarkation formalities.
2. During the landing period, the activities of the crew shall be limited to the area where the shipyard is located. Details shall be specified by the Office of the Leading Group for Epidemic Prevention.
3. Crew members who have been landing for rest shall leave the country with the ship, and shall not leave the country in other ways without approval.
It is known that Qingdao has issued a similar Notice on dealing with foreign crew change. Ships planning to have crew change in China are suggested to contact local agent or local offices for the latest requirements by the port in question.