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China comes in for particular criticism for its failure to repatriate bodies of dead crew

China is coming in for particular criticism as more and more cases emerge of dead seafarers and the impossibility of repatriating their bodies to their families.

Splash has reported on two such incidents in the past week, one involving someone who died from Covid-19, and another from a cardiac arrest. Both families have had to wait more than two months to get their funeral plans in place.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has said it is aware of at least 10 cases during the past 15 months where seafarers have died of non-Covid causes and local and national governmental authorities have blocked the return of those bodies to seafarers’ families back home.

There’s been at least 10 recent cases where seafarers have died of non-Covid causes and governments block the return of those bodies

China’s intransigence on the matter – and demands to cremate bodies – has horrified many.

“Indonesian seafarers’ families have been incredibly distressed at the policy of Chinese officials to block the repatriation of their loved ones’ bodies, with Chinese officials instead insisting on cremation of bodies and the return of ashes only to seafarers’ home countries. To some religious cultures and traditions, China’s policy to prevent burials and families’ time with the bodies of the deceased seafarers is exceptionally offensive,” commented Fabrizio Barcellona, ITF Seafarers’ Section coordinator.

It is not just China that is failing to repatriate bodies – Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan have also denied families the chance to get their deceased loved ones home for a funeral.

“This is clearly more about governments’ incompetence to re-establish systems of body repatriation than it is about managing Covid-19 risk to local populations,” Barcellona said.

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.
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