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Crew change costs shipowner $820,000, says ICS

Shipowners are going to extraordinary lengths and this example was the tip of the iceberg, says International Chamber of Shipping chief executive Guy Platten

Exorbitant costs attached to crew transfers exemplified by the case of a crew travelling from Cote d’Ivoire to Paris, where a charter flight awaited to Doha, from where the seafarers could fly to India 

ONE shipowner is facing a bill of about $820,000 for changing over 18 seafarers, according to International Chamber of Shipping estimates.

It highlighted the plight of the unidentified shipowner who tried to transfer crew from Cote d’Ivoire to Paris, where a charter flight awaited to Doha, where the seafarers could fly to India. Their tanker had sailed to the Ivory Coast in ballast from Luanda.

However the seafarers’ luggage could only be checked in as far as Paris and then had to clear immigration. No visas could be issued to allow the seafarers to collect them as they had to remain in transit. This flight was off and the ship sailed in ballast for Gibraltar.

Flights from Gibraltar to European countries that had airline connections to Doha via Qatar Airways were ruled out because of the same visa restrictions.

The earliest flights to the UK were in 10 days, with only four seats available, and 18 crew to change, the shipowner said.

The tanker is now sailing for the UK where ‘keyworker’ status allows seafarers to disembark so they can more easily catch a connecting flight to Doha from Heathrow airport when they arrive next week.

“This has all been done off hire and at the shipowner’s expense,” the ICS told Lloyd’s List. “We estimated that with the loss of hire at $15,000 per day and bunkers at say $12,000 per day we are probably talking about a total cost of $820,000 which this shipowner has had to pick up to ensure their seafarers get home.

“This is obviously not sustainable for the entire sector and shows how red tape, bureaucracy and a lack of political focus is creating significant issues for seafarers and the industry.”

The same shipowner has now found a workaround to allow crew on other tankers working in the West Africa region to disembark and sign on in Spain, which nonetheless still incurred significant expense.

Other stories relayed to the ICS from members include 15 Indian seafarers who were refused boarding after their plane was delayed and due to depart 11 minutes after their  48-hour deadline for a negative coronavirus test expired. Relieving crew had to return to Delhi, at the shipowners’ expense.

The stories emerged after Lloyd’s List highlighted how exorbitant costs of changeovers was deterring some owners from undertaking them.

Shipowners are going to extraordinary lengths and this example was the tip of the iceberg, ICS chief executive Guy Platten said.

“At a time when governments are rushing to revive their economies and even to resume tourism, happy to use the goods that are supplied by the seafarers, they cannot in all consciousness continue to ignore the plight of our seafarers trapped at sea,” he said. “Shipowners are going the extra mile and doing much more that could reasonably be expected but this is just getting ridiculous.

“Governments must start taking this situation more seriously by classifying seafarers as key workers, removing travel restrictions for them, process visas or better still allow seafarers to travel on their papers, which in turn will provide the encouragement for airlines to put on appropriate capacity.”

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