China’s 7-week cargo ship quarantines are bad news for the supply chain

  • China imposes mandatory quarantines of up to seven weeks for returned Chinese seafarers.
  • Crew changes are becoming more difficult due to stricter government requirements, says the Global Maritime Forum.
  • Ships are diverted to circumvent China’s restrictions, extending shipments.

China’s strict COVID-19 quarantines make it difficult for ships to change crews, contributing to delays in the shipping process that could exacerbate the supply chain crisis.

The country has a zero-Covid policy and is imposing increasingly stringent containment measures while tackling its latest wave of outbreaks. On Halloween night, for example, 30,000 people were barricaded inside Shanghai Disneyland after only one case of COVID-19 was discovered. And in the northern city of Shenyang, arriving overseas travelers face a 56-day quarantine.

The export center is now imposing mandatory quarantines of up to seven weeks – about 49 days – for Chinese seafarers returning from abroad, Bloomberg reported. These take place in designated facilities and are typically paid for by employers, according to information published on various Chinese shipping websites.

The country has also banned crew changes for foreign seafarers, the media reported. Even ships that have had their crews replaced elsewhere have to wait before they can call at Chinese ports.

Ships and seafarers typically take a break from sailing after four to six months on board, according to the International Maritime Organization.

Most seafarers in the world come from five countries: China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Before the pandemic, seafarers sometimes had to go to another country to board a ship. Likewise, some would land in another country before taking home a plane, which has already been made increasingly difficult in the last two years due to border controls.

The staff turnover exercise has become increasingly difficult “due to stricter Chinese government isolation requirements for seafarers after deregistration and before repatriation,” the non-profit Global Maritime Forum said in a recent press release.

This means that ships redirect to circumvent China’s restrictions, prolonging shipments.

“China’s restrictions are causing contagious effects,” Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, told Bloomberg. “Any restriction on ship operation has an accumulative effect on the supply chain and causes real disruption.”

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