Seamen finally go home as crew change resumes after pandemic
It's the first time in five and a half months that Romanian seaman Niculescu Ricardo stepped on land as crew change resumed at local ports after China lifted COVID-19-related restrictions.
A third engineer on the vehicle carrier MONZA, Ricardo left the vessel on Wednesday. He needed no central quarantine before he could go to the airport to take a flight back home.
Although the crew are allowed to stay in China for at most 15 days, Ricardo decided to return home immediately.
"My wife was so very happy to hear that I can finally go home," he said. "It's been too long."
Having been a seaman for nearly 10 years, this was the first time that Ricardo was stuck on board for such a long period of time.
The chief officer with MONZA, Sima Razvan, also from Romania, was happy with the resumption of crew change as some of them had been stuck on board for about a year.
"During the pandemic, we were not allowed to get off the vessel at the port," he noted. "No crew change was possible."
The Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection has resumed issuing administrative permits for border inspection and the conduction of crew change requested by international vessels.
"At present foreign crew members can apply for crew change through ship agents with their valid travel documents, and Chinese visas (except for those from visa-free countries)," said Liu Yi, an immigration officer.
"For crew members who don't hold Chinese visas, they can apply for temporary entry permits and connecting flights departing from Shanghai. The whole process takes no longer than a few minutes."
After a night's stay in Shanghai, MONZA left the port on Wednesday for South Korea and then onwards to Europe. A new team of crew members, mostly from Poland, had arrived in Shanghai the day before and the vessel finished the departure procedure on Wednesday morning.
Piotr Soncinski, chief engineer with MONZA, said that he arrived in Shanghai by airplane two days earlier. Apart from PCR tests, there were no other restrictions.
"It's much easier now than during the pandemic," he pointed out. "Not just in China, it was very difficult all around the world. I'm happy that it's generally back to normal now."