MSC, the operator of the bulker Anastasia, directed the vessel to Japan after it had been stuck off the coast of China since September. 

The ship is one of dozens of coal-carrying ships caught in the trade dispute between China and Australia, stranded off the coast of China.  

MSC, which maintains the vessel and organises its crew, said it had exhausted all efforts at a diplomatic level between Indian and Chinese authorities, was left with no other option but to direct the ship’s master to head to Japan on 4 February after concerns about the crew intensified. 

MSC understands that the company which initially chartered Anastasia from MSC had sub-chartered the vessel to a third party and that the commercial parties involved in the selling and buying of the cargo onboard were caught in the political uncertainty around the trade issue. 

COVID-19 complications 

MSC said it tried to convince the chartering and commercial parties in control of the vessel and its cargo to allow a crew change in various locations before it arrived in Chinese waters, and again while it was at anchorage outside the Chinese Port of Caofeidian, although COVID-19 protective measures closed off many options in China which would normally have been available. 

The shipping line said prioritised the Japanese option as the quickest and most efficient way to provide the necessary relief for the crew and to enable the ship to subsequently continue in service as it may be required by the charterers. 

According to MSC, as a result of its actions, 18 seafarers, mostly of Indian nationality, will disembark from Anastasia on 10 February and will undergo thorough medical examinations before being repatriated by MSC to reunite with their families as soon as possible. MSC will continue to monitor their physical and mental health. 

 Global crew-change crisis 

While MSC said observes and supports COVID-19 health and sanitation requirements wherever it operates, the impact of restrictions on crew changes has taken its toll on hundreds of thousands of seafarers globally, throughout the pandemic crisis. 

Since the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, MSC has engaged directly with governments and intergovernmental bodies, as well as non-governmental organisations, to campaign for better standards and protocols for crew changes. 

MSC is also a signatory to the Neptune Declaration, which brings together shipping industry peers to call for global recognition for these heroes of global trade and improve the situation for seafarers across the maritime world. 

Anastasia (IMO: 9625970) is a 92,214-tonne-DWT Panama-flagged bulk carrier built in 2012.