Indian crew employer Anglo-Eastern fast tracks staff swap plan on ships overseas

Anglo-Eastern Univan Group plans to carry out crew changes globally on 71 ships involving about 1,300 Indian seafarers, using chartered flight by June end, the Hong Kong-based ship managers global head of marine human resources, Vinay Singh has said.

Anglo-Eastern is one of the largest foreign employers of Indian seafarers. Of about 29,000 seafarers employed globally by the ship manager on a fleet of 850 ships, around 70 per cent or 20,000 are Indian seafarers working on board 580 ships.

Ship owners and managers have come under intense pressure to replace crew working beyond their original contract tenures as countries closed borders and stopped international flights to slow the spread of the pandemic since March.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) have set June 15 as deadline to relieve crew working beyond their stipulated contract time on board.

Anglo-Eastern first suspended all crew changes in China – where the virus originated – on January 23 and relieved maximum possible staff in February, in anticipation of the spread of the virus to other countries.

“As the uncertainty regarding crew changes was building up, we continued to relieve people globally till March 23, when lockdown was announced in India. The delay in suspending the crew changes helped us, since less than 3 per cent of our staff was due for relief by end March,” Singh told BusinessLine.

During the first two months of suspension of crew change (March 23 to May 25), Anglo-Eastern managed to relieve about 646 staff from 82 ships. But, the share of Indian seafarers was very less (128 seafarers from 12 ships) as India was in complete lockdown.

The situation started to ease after India allowed crew change of Indian seafarers at Indian ports from April 22 and permitted operation of chartered flights for sending and bringing back crew in mid-May.

In the past two weeks, it carried out crew change on 85 ships globally involving 928 seafarers. “The good news is that the share of Indians was higher with crew changes on 42 ships involving 563 Indian staff. Thus, the total number of Indian seafarers involved in crew changes since March 23 comes to 691 staff on 54 ships. Globally, we have had 1,584 crew movements across 167 ships since March 23,” Singh revealed.

Anglo-Eastern said it carried out crew changes on all ships which were calling Indian ports and even deviated nine ships to Kochi, only for crew change.

“During the last one week, we have made use of five chartered flights to ferry about 140 Indian seafarers to various destination via Doha or Colombo. We have planned to carry out crew changes on 71 ships involving about 1,300 Indian seafarers, using chartered flight, by June end,” Singh said.

India was one of the first countries to open its ports/anchorages for crew change of Indian seafarers, and is possibly the only country to not impose port dues or anchorage charges for crew changes on vessels not calling on Indian ports, Anglo-Eastern Univan Group’s Chief Executive Officer, Captain Bjorn Hojgaard wrote in a June 5 letter to Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.

The careful preventative measures in place at ports are also amongst the best we have seen, serving to keep ships and crews safe from Covid-19, he said.

“As a result of these initiatives, India has taken the lead over many other countries previously renowned for crew changes, even pioneering chartered flights for the sole purpose of facilitating overseas crew relief,” he stated.

Many governments, according to Hojgaard, have “disappointingly failed” to comprehend the essential service provided by the seafaring community, neglecting the plight of seafarers in the process, which is why it has been “extremely heartening” to see the proactive efforts taken by the Indian government.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

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