Insurer Gard is fighting to allow the owner of a cargoship to remove the body of its captain two months after his death.

The Norwegian protection and indemnity club is working with UK charity Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) to highlight the plight of the 33,500-dwt Vantage Wave (built 2011) off China.

The unnamed Romanian master died unexpectedly on 19 April, but permission to disembark the body has been refused by a series of Asian countries during the pandemic.

Medical advice sought by Gard suggests the captain died of cardiac arrest and had no Covid-19 symptoms.

HRAS has been asked by the seafarer's family, and instructed by Gard on behalf of the shipowner, Vantage Shipping, and crew members' interests, to bring urgent international attention to the case.

"The onboard situation is further exacerbated by a rapidly emerging issue of food and water shortages, with resupply and disembarkation permissions allegedly being denied by local Chinese authorities at the time of writing," HRAS said.

Following loading at Paradip in India, the vessel had departed for Huangpu New Port in Guangzhou on 15 April to discharge 25,000 tonnes of aluminium ingots.

The master died during the voyage four days later. He reportedly had swollen legs and very low blood pressure.

Extensive legal and Romanian diplomatic efforts have failed to secure a disembarkation agreement with countries including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.

The vessel arrived at the outer Guishan anchorage on 7 May, where it remains.

Guangzhou Municipal Government has not yet approved disembarkation of the body.

Against religious traditions

The family of the captain has agreed to the incineration of his body in an attempt to address the matter, despite this being against their religious traditions and personal wishes.

"Over the last month, the crew and the vessel have additionally been facing a serious shortage of food and water, which has imposed additional risks of the safety of the vessel and the general health of the crew" HRAS said.

"Despite requests for food and water resupply being submitted, these continue to be rejected."

The shipowner and seafarers on board fully understand Covid-19 pandemic prevention issues, but have said the situation is adding significant psychological pressure.

HRAS has called for urgent action by the Chinese port authority.

In January, TradeWinds reported the ship was boarded by three robbers off Singapore while underway in the eastbound lane.

A search of the vessel was later conducted and no items were reported missing.