Crew changes and Covid-19

Since the first quarter of 2020, we seen direct reams of grievous cutting edge accounts, reexamined government guidelines – sometimes changing everyday – as well as new medical advice. This has provoked the quickest and most amazing changes in crew change operational methods at any point found in the advanced worldwide period.

While much of the effect of Covid-19 is yet to unfold, it’s reasonable to expect that the pandemic’s generally significant and impactful legacy in the shipping industry is the crew change crisis.

 “The regulations are changing by the day. As there’s limited written information, the predominantly verbal communications present a challenge for us in guiding customers,” commented Johan Thuresson, GAC Dubai’s General Manager – Shipping Services.

Numerous nations are not permitting sailors of different nationalities to sign on/off. Crew changes are sometimes only permitted at anchorage or Off-Port-Limits (OPL). The broad measures are quickly developing, and normally getting progressively stricter.

According to Marc Nordblad, GAC Abu Dhabi’s Business Manager – Shipping: “In normal circumstances, and with proper planning, crew changes happen seamlessly and without interruption. None of that is true during Covid-19; we can consider every crew change exceptional.”

Crew changes become practically impossible due to the closure of many airports, in some areas, including those in Jordan, Lebanon, Guyana and Panama, for varying periods.  “The limiting factor is the amount of flights available for seafarers to get home in a timely manner… and visa expiration for non-EU crew,” said Tom Hanoy, Operational Manager at GAC Norway.

Flight scarcity ushered in an era where extraordinary measures were required to get off-signing seafarers home. In Norway, GAC completed a crew transfer using a high-speed rigid inflatable boat (RIB) for crew that had overstayed their time at sea; some by weeks, and a few by months. And in the UK, a London-based coach provider was called to Aberdeen to provide seafarers with a socially distanced crew transfer, passengers.

With crew remaining on board beyond their contracted period, extreme mental stress and fatigue has set in, raising industry concerns about their physical and psychological welfare.

“This is an extremely difficult situation for crew to be away from their family,” said Anupama Kale HR Manager at GAC Marine in Abu Dhabi. “For crew motivation, we have extended our support from shore.” She also highlighted the financial pressure inflicted by the crisis: “Shipping operators are already under financial pressure, with ships being idle. Covid-19 tests are expensive, and many crew members are being paid a salary to stay longer onboard, or spend time in quarantine.”

In Africa and the Middle East, further layers of authorizations stay fundamental. For instance, GAC Angola orchestrated group change from a well incitement vessel to be landed under extraordinary consent from the Ministry of Health and Covid-19 Commission for forward bringing home to India, in a sanctioned helpful flight composed by the Indian Embassy. In Oman, a homegrown flight was utilized to move team from Duqm to Muscat International Airport.

One nation that has demonstrated a special case is Finland, where sailors have been assigned key laborers all through the pandemic, empowering team changes to proceed with limitation free and giving a choice to sailors from neighboring nations.

“We arranged Russian crew repatriations from all over the world through the Finnish-Russian land border when Russia closed all foreign air traffic,” said Ville Marchant, GAC Finland’s Cruise Agency Manager. Other countries have since sought to replicate Finland’s model, with the IMO confirming it has received official communications from almost 30 countries expressing their support for the campaign to designate seafarers as key workers.

GAC North America cited another expense – seafarers with expired visas must be placed under guard until they fly out of the USA, at significant expense to the ship owner.

Around the world, uncertainty persists with regards to when normality will return for crew changes.

“We must also be prepared that the situation will constantly change depending on the pandemic, and we need to keep our fingers on the pulse,” said Ibrahim Attieh, GAC Jordan’s General Manager.

Eric Barnard, Managing Director of GAC South Africa, however, expressed some optimism: “We expect crew changes to be permitted again once we have passed our Covid-19 peak, with fewer cases and at lower levels of lockdown. When this happens, we expect to be inundated with crew change enquiries.”

Source: Sea Trade Maritime news

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