AsiaDry CargoOperations

Bulk carrier detained at Antwerp’s Liberation Dock highlights continued crew change difficulties

The plight of the crew onboard the Anhui bulk carrier highlights both the ongoing crew change crisis and subsequent supply chain kinks.

The ship was detained in Antwerp late last month, ironically at the Liberation Dock, after it was found some of the all Vietnamese crew serving onboard had been working for up to 21 months non-stop. All crew had worked well beyond their contracts.

The ship has this week discharged its cargo and it has been reloaded onto a chartered vessel.

The two longest serving crewmembers on the Anhui are now at a hotel in Antwerp while local Vietnamese consular staff try to fix flights for all 20 crewmembers.

ITF inspector Marc Van Noten commented: “With this ship, it was clear that there was not even an action plan to try a swap. Perhaps because of that, it was put in detention. But the problem in the industry is dire. There are up to 400,000 seafarers worldwide who are in the same situation of not being relieved after terminating their employment contracts. In these coronavirus times, getting a crew home is really not easy. At the beginning of the pandemic there were sometimes embassy flights, but that too seems to have come to a complete to a stop.”

The 2019-built, 39,269 dwt ship is flagged in Panama and owned by Japan’s KN Maritime. New crew are expected to arrive next week to liberate the Anhui crew.

Travel restrictions brought about by the 11-month-old coronavirus pandemic have seen more than 400,000 seafarers working beyond their contracts with many now approaching two years at sea, with scant shore leave to boot.

“The crew change crisis is the largest ever humanitarian and logistical tragedy facing the maritime sector,” Hugo De Stoop, CEO of Belgian tanker giant Euronav, said last week at the unveiling of the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, a global call to action to address the ongoing crew change crisis.

Other horrendous tales of crew neglect during the pandemic are emerging regularly, few better documented than the YouTube video (see below) posted by Captain Tymur Rudov last month in which he discussed the impossibility of getting a seriously ill colleague off his ship in China for urgent medical attention.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Its appalling to see the lack of empathy and compassion for crew by some of the Owners/Charterers/Operators and Managers.

    Crew of “Anhui” stuck for 21 months on board! Japanese owner, Panama flag state had to wait for detention by PSCO to realise that their Vietnamese crew needed to go home, get some rest with family! Where were their Managers (ISM) & Charterers ?

    It’s also disturbing that the Owners and Managers didn’t have a plan either, and it’s the detention which has triggered the crew change.

  2. There is a need for NGOs to create a new “shame” expression which disturbing Owners and Managers would baulk at, considering that clearly human plight has no effect on them. Public shame is the only other weapon the wider community has in Port States that don’t have the boldness that we have seen in this case, or of the Australian administration.
    This is, in all senses of the victims’ experience, a form of Bonded Labour; just instead of holding a debt over the heads of the victims, it is the prospect of not getting a new contract when they come back from the long-overdue leave. “Crewmember X is a trouble-maker, dear recruiter in village Y, don’t offer a position to him ever again”.
    I have heard European, North American and other privileged strata of the seafaring society making statements that are clearly totally detached from this reality – these guys are in a high-supply marketplace. Unfortunately some such uninformed persons have been speaking on behalf of the very organisations that are supposed to take action on behalf of the victims who are trying not to be “the troublemaker”.

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