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Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Crew Change Crisis is Getting Worse

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

July 1, 2021

© Alexey Seafarer / Adobe Stock

© Alexey Seafarer / Adobe Stock

The crew change crisis that has been plaguing the maritime industry for more than a year and a half is raging on and only getting worse, data from 10 of the world's top ship managers suggests.

The number of seafarers onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract has continued rising from 7.2% to 8.8% in the last month, and the number of seafarers onboard vessels for over 11 months has risen from 0.4% to 1%, according to the latest monthly Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator.

The Maritime Labor Convention states that the maximum continuous period a seafarer should serve on board a vessel without leave is 11 months. Since the launch of the Indicator in May, the number of seafarers onboard vessels for over 11 months has increased from 0.4% to 1%, corresponding to a 150% relative increase, and the number of seafarers onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract has risen from 5.8% to 8.8%, which corresponds to a 51.7% relative increase. 

Kasper Søgaard, Head of Research, Global Maritime Forum, said, “The latest data shows that the crew change crisis is far from over. It is important that all stakeholders work together to deliver on our shared responsibility of protecting seafarers and making sure that they can return home safely.”

“The crew change crisis has been ongoing for more than a year and a half, with the highest cost falling on seafarers and their families’ wellbeing. The situation is going from bad to worse,” said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation. “We need more than lip service from governments, we need concrete action that allows crew changes to be carried out in a safe manner.”

The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator builds on aggregated data from 10 leading ship managers: Anglo-Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management (FLEET), OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem, and Wilhelmsen Ship Management, which collectively have about 90,000 seafarers currently onboard.

In addition to the provided data, the contributing ship managers also highlighted several key developments that have impacted crew changes in the past month. They said continual high infection rates and subsequent domestic lockdowns are still challenging crew changes and causing disruption to crew movements.

Travel restrictions continue to prevent seafarers from going back home and many flights have been canceled. In particular, a decrease of daily inbound flights to the Philippines as well as the travel ban announced by Philippine Government for seafarers traveling from UAE, Oman, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan are causing a general disruption to the crew movements.

In addition, leading maritime crew nations continue to have low vaccination rates and seafarers continue to have limited vaccine access.

Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping, said, “Resolving the crew change crisis will require all seafarers to have priority access to vaccines. There has been some progress, for instance in the United States and in parts of Europe, which we welcome, but the vast majority of seafarers are still unable to be vaccinated. It is urgent that countries prioritize the vaccination of international seafarers.”

Jeremy Nixon, CEO, ONE, said, “Seafarers play a crucial role in keeping global supply chains running, delivering essential healthcare, foodstuff, consumer products and just in time manufacturing components. Without them 80% of our shopping baskets would be empty. We are all indebted to resolve the crew change crisis now. The difficulties in carrying out crew changes can easily be overcome by Governments if they really put their minds to it. Where there is a will, there is a way.

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