Health and safety

Seafarers denied off-signing as coronavirus fears mount

6 February 2020

Seafarers who have visited Chinese ports are being denied off-signing by countries fearing the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Nautilus has been told by a member who asked to remain anonymous.

Off-signing is when a seafarer comes to the end of his or her contract of employment onboard a vessel and prepares for crew transfer and transport home.

Seafarers refused off-signing by a disembarkation country could be stuck onboard for many additional weeks, or months, depending on the vessel's schedule and disembarkation port.

Crew could face an additional 14 days onboard to Singapore from China, or an additional 30 days onboard to Qatar after leaving China, for example.

'This is not good for crew reliefs,' the source said.

Refusing crew relief would directly contradict advice from the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA). IMHA updated its shipping-specific advice on reducing the risk of infection from the new coronavirus on January 26 to include:

  • Do not restrict embarkation /disembarkation of seafarers in non-affected ports
  • Do not restrict necessary ship visits by port agents, chaplains, service personnel and others

IMHA also recommended that ship operators store facial protection for all crew, with a minimum of five pieces per person.

More than 24,500 people have been infected globally with coronavirus as of February 5.

From Saturday all people entering Hong Kong from China will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Hong Kong's two cruise terminals will be closed, according to its leader Carrie Lam.

The World Dream Ship, operated by Dream cruises, is being held at Hong Kong port after 30 crew reported symptoms including fever, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday cruise ship the Diamond Princess was quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama due to an outbreak of the virus that saw 10 confirmed cases.

For further information on the new coronavirus: