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Tomini crew refuse to offload cargo in Bangladesh over fears of contracting coronavirus

The master and the crew of the three-year-old 63,590 dwt Tomini Destiny bulk carrier find themselves in a tense standoff with the ship’s owner in Bangladeshi waters.

Last week, the ship’s Indian captain took the decision to invoke Master’s Authority under the International Safety Management Code and applicable Safety Management System, refusing to offload his cargo at Chittagong Port for fear that his ship could be infected with the coronavirus via the 60-odd local stevedores who would normally board the vessel in order to offload cargoes.

The flag state administration, the Marshall Islands, has been asked by the owners, UAE-based Tomini Shipping, to mediate, while the master and 21 crew have come up what they state are the only workable solutions for the safe offload of the cargo.

The charity Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has been in direct contact with owner’s representatives, P&I interests, the flag state administration, and passed information to the charterers.

“The safety, health and wellbeing of our seafarers is our number one priority and our management and technical teams are in constant communication with all our seafarers supporting them and their families as we navigate the complicated challenges the COVID 19 pandemic presents,” Tomini Shipping stated in an email to HRAS, insisting in a later statement: “We have adhered and complied with every regulation, addressed all the concerns raised by Tomini Destiny and are currently working with the relevant maritime authorities and bodies.”

According to HRAS the case in Bangladesh highlights a number of pertinent issues including the weighting of commercial interests over crew welfare standards, as set against emerging Covid-19 restrictions during commercial loading and discharge operations.

“The case highlights a number of wider issues which may well shape future conduct of business in light of the emerging and the indisputable threat to life of the Covid-19 virus,” the charity stated in a release yesterday.

According to MarineTraffic, as of Monday afternoon local time the ship remains at anchor in the Bay of Bengal and the master has erected razor wire around the vessel to ensure no one can board it.


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. Something that was not even raised in the deliberations of the MLC, the right to refuse dangerous work. Although this is in some national laws and Codes, not all seafarers have this protection. It however helps in this instance that the captain was ‘on board’ and used his over riding responsibility for safety of the ship to protect the crew. I wonder what would happen if the master and the crew had different views on this one?

  2. The matter is that Master overriding authority is preceded by his full assessment of situation which deals with the current practices in Chittagong port area where a huge quantity of small boats crewed by every kind of port related persons, are allowed to go alongside ships at anchor, (maybe 2, 3, 4, dozens of people) giving room to contagious and infection conditions.
    If the Master and the crew had different views on this one prevails one of Master technical assessment.

  3. Salute to the Master of the vessel on his bold stance wrt the safety of his crew. A game changing disicion.

  4. You could have avoid the nationality of master, owners and their lobbiest usually target particular nationality. Master call must be address by concern parties.

  5. I am a crew of this vessel right now, and i salute my captain, our captain take A right decision at right movement, and he knows very well how to take care his crew , and still we are to gather, and its my Honor to serve with him,
    Thank you very much captain sir

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