The bunkering industry in Hong Kong has staged a protest to rally for its government to relax quarantine measures for inbound vessels and a HKD 32 million (USD 4.1 million) financial package to bolster the industry which has been affected by Covid-19 related lockdowns, reported Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK).
Currently, the government requires all crew from fishing and cargo vessels to undergo a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival.
According to traders, stringent quarantine measures have deterred vessels from bunkering in Hong Kong and sales volume has fallen by 70% since the outbreak started last year.
The industry comprises roughly 1,000 workers and 160 operating bunker tankers and reportedly has not allegedly received any relief funds from earlier financial packages arranged by the government.
The protest was purportedly held on Thursday, (14 December) at Victoria Harbour where 18 vessels displayed banners with messages like “The government bans shipping shipping without giving us subsidies” and “To say Hong Kong port is open is empty talk”.
Historically, Hong Kong ranks among the world’s top-five bunkering ports by volume but is currently in danger of losing its position as the pandemic has driven its customers to bunker at other regional ports.
“People are not allowed to come in right now, but the ships are still sailing around the world. So where do they go? They go to Taiwan, they go to Singapore for bunkering,” said transport sector legislator Frankie Yick.
“As much as possible, we don’t want them to leave Hong Kong. Once they leave, they could find it is even more convenient or it could be cheaper over there, so then they won’t come back. This is the worry that we have.”
Concerns regarding the maritime industry include foreign crew carrying the Covid-19 virus and triggering a third wave of the virus.
However, Yick explained that the industry has updated its practices so that zero-contact bunkering operations will be possible.
For example, the bunkering hose will be hoisted up with a chain and on-board crew will connect the hose to the vessel themselves. Additionally, bunker-delivery related documents can be lowered to on-shore crew with a basket and disinfected with alcohol before being handled.
“I would say all the precautionary measures have been done, so the government should do some sort of rethinking,” said Yick.
Photo credit: Courtesy of a Manifold Times reader
Published: 18 January, 2021
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