Participants urge seafarers' rights protection amid pandemic at the Maritime Silk Road International Forum
Tang Bo

Protecting the rights of seafarers is a key topic at a forum on judicial cooperation along the Maritime Silk Road taking place in Quanzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province. The route spans China, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. 

Some of the participants – from 21 countries and three international organizations – share their views on ways to better protect seafarers amid shipping disputes, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, at the Maritime Silk Road International Forum on Judicial Cooperation.

One of the topics covers the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of crew members under COVID-19. Many workers and staff are trapped onboard vessels in quarantine or held for other prescribed safety issues. It is one of the new challenges countries along the Maritime Silk Road face in deepening judicial cooperation.

"There is a greater need for communication... between different jurisdictions," Nelson Ng Chiun Ming, consul general of Singapore, said in Xiamen. He noted that China is maintaining the zero tolerance to COVID cases while other countries, including Singapore, are transiting to a COVID resilient approach.

The divergent approaches highlight the urgent need for countries to discuss through judicial channels how to resolve the problem.

Frederick Kenney, director of legal affairs and external relations division of the International Maritime Organization, drew attention to the importance of shipping for the world economy, and seafarers' access to medical care and vaccinations.

Kenney says ensuring repatriated seafarers get access to medical care and that they get priority access to vaccinations through designation as key workers are critical factors in making sure that they can work normally and keep the global supply chain going.

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Lebedev, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Russia, called the forum very successful in promoting international maritime relations. 

"The forum will play an important role in international maritime judicial cooperation," he said.

Lebedev said Russia's legislation on maritime issues will be covering all disputes and cases mentioned at the forum, including civil, penal, and administrative ones.

(Cover: Border police officers check the identity of a Chinese crew member at Nanjing Port in east China's Jiangsu Province, March 17, 2020. /CFP)

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