Ships diverting to Indian ports just for carrying out crew change during the pandemic are carrying out this task at the outer anchorage to cut cost and time. The Cochin Port has become the most preferred destination for outer anchorage crew changes for ships as it is not collecting any charges in this regard. The VO Chidambaranar Port Trust in Tamil Nadu has also seen crew changes in its outer anchorage, where ships wait till they are allotted a berth for cargo loading and unloading inside the port.
“Anchorage is the cheapest option for cargo-laden ships that deviate from its normal route just to drop off crew working beyond their contract tenure and to sign on relievers,” said an official with a ship agency. “If a ship comes inside the port, it has to pay port dues, berth hire and pilotage charges which are substantial,” he said. Typically, anchorage charges are set as a percentage of the berth hire charges and are billed on an hourly basis, depending on the ship size.
While Cochin Port Trust is not levying any anchorage charges on the ships for crew change at outer anchorage, it earns revenue from the tugs lend to the ship agents to facilitate this task. These tugs owned by the Cochin Port Trust are hired by the ships agents to ferry joiners to the ship and bring back those who have signed off.
After the Directorate General of Shipping allowed Indian ports to allow crew change in their anchorage, 26 ships have carried out this exercise at Cochin Port, helping 177 seafarers to sign off and 146 to sign on.
Cochin Port Trust earns about ₹5 lakh from each crew change at its outer anchorage mainly through tug hire charges.
JM Baxi & Co, India’s largest ship agency, carried out crew change on ‘Sanmar Royal’ at the outer anchorage of VOCPT during the week with ten crew disembarking and another ten joining the ship. The ship owner is diverting another vessel to the VOCPT outer anchorage to undertake crew change.
Ports have not considered crew change as a profitable activity till the outbreak of coronavirus. While revenue is generated, port managements have not given it a thought “from a marketing point of view”.
Ship agents say that ports other than Cochin are collecting anchorage charges for crew change activities.
Using a port’s outer anchorage to change crew also saves time as the ship need not wait to get a berth. Besides, bigger ships and fully-laden ships will not be able to come inside the port due to depth restrictions.
New business opportunity
“It could be such a business opportunity for Cochin Port Trust if they make it easier for ships to come,” said the Indian captain on an oil tanker heading towards China.
Cochin has locational advantages as all cargo ships coming from the Gulf of Aden and Persian Gulf, passes very close to the Indian coast en-route to Singapore and China.
“Ships can take provisions, do crew change and get lot of other services at Cochin. What Singapore or Dubai are doing for shipping, we can also do, it needs opening-up and relaxing red-tape,” he added.
Source: The Hindu Business Line