Hong Kong providers of shipping services are breathing a sigh of relief after authorities announced they would ease strict quarantine restrictions imposed last July on vessels calling at the Asian shipping hub, trade sources said.

From Tuesday, crew of non-cargo goods vessels visiting Hong Kong for shipping services, including bunkering and provision supplies, will be exempt from the curbs, subject to conditions, the Marine Department told shipping firms in a letter.

“This is a long overdue relaxation as the trade had already demonstrated to the health authority here in Hong Kong that there is no human contact throughout the process,” Frankie Yick, a transport sector legislator, told Reuters.

Hong Kong’s bunkering industry, which is among the world’s top 10, was hit hard by the strict 14-day quarantine requirement imposed on crew of vessels calling for reasons other than to load or discharge cargo.

Ship operators opted instead to refuel in neighbouring ports, such as China, Singapore and Taiwan, several industry sources said.

Yick said Hong Kong’s bunkering industry was “seriously affected” by last year’s restrictions, which took volumes down by about 70% from levels before the pandemic.

Before the curbs, Hong Kong had typically supplied about 500,000 tonnes of bunkers each month.

“The trade does hope that business will come back to Hong Kong in due course and for sure it will take a bit of time to go back to the previous level of business,” said Yick, referring to the shipping industry.

Source: Hellenic Shipping