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Stranded crew data reveals extent of changeover crisis

The first Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator shows 5.8% of seafarers were on board vessels beyond the expiry of their contracts of employment

Managers warned that the seemingly low percentages shown by the indicator by no means signals the end of the crew change storm. And ‘2021 is set to be worse than the past year’

MORE than 5,200 seafarers were working beyond the expiry of their employment contracts in April, according to shipmanagers’ data.

The figure was compiled by the leading 10 shipmanagement companies and represents 5.8% of the 90,000 seafarers they collectively currently have on board vessels.

Of those affected, 0.4% have been on vessels for more than 11 months — the maximum period of service stipulated in the Maritime Labour Convention — the first Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator shows.

 

Leaders of the companies involved — Anglo-Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management, OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem and Wilhelmsen Ship Management — warn that the seemingly low percentages shown by the indicator by no means signal the end of the crew change storm.

“The crew rotation crisis is far from over,” said Anglo-Eastern chief executive Bjorn Hojgaard. “In fact, 2021 is set to be worse than the past year, with the recent surge in coronavirus cases in many crew supply countries making crew change in many cases impossible, due to ports’ shutting down for these nationality seafarers.

“The current very low number reported by leading shipmanagement companies is not representative of the actual situation on the ground, and the worsening development in the next few months.

“What our industry needs is priority vaccination for seafarers and for ports and countries to allow vaccinated seafarers to rotate unimpeded on the world’s merchant fleet,” said Mr Hojgaard.

The view was echoed by his counterpart at Synergy Group, Rajesh Unni, as well as OSM Maritime Crew managing director Peter Burkal and Thome Group chief human resources officer Simon Frank.

Lloyd’s List has reported escalating crew changeover chaos and shortages as reimposed and ever-expanding quarantine and immigration restrictions bite at key hubs in the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

A crew-nationality arbitrage has also emerged, with preference being given to seafarers who are easier to relocate, such as the Chinese, to the detriment of Indian and other southeast Asian countries.

Kishore Rajvanshy, managing director at Fleet Management, called on governments and international bodies to prioritise seafarers as “key workers” and speed up the provision of vaccines for them.

He said the rollout of the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator was “a step forward” to addressing the deteriorating predicament for crew changeover.

“It allows us to marshal our collective knowledge and data to respond effectively to the situation,” he said.

The indicator, which will be published on a monthly basis to the Global Maritime Forum, follows the launch of the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change in January.

The initiative has since been supported by more than 800 signatories, including some of the major shipowners and charterers.

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