Measures being taken by ship operators in an effort to to ensure the safety of seafarers around the globe and the trade of vital food and supplies amid COVID-19 are proving costly as well as tricky warns a crew specialist.
Henrik Jensen of Danica Crewing Services reports that they recently placed a crew of 19 of Ukrainian and Filipino nationality on to a vessel and the necessary pandemic-related procedures cost some $10,000, which the ship owner had to cover.
The charges included COVID-19 PCR tests of all crew members, as well as additional local transport, hotel accommodation and food allowances as the test was not available in the seafarers’ hometown so they had to travel to another city to get the test done and wait there for the result before they could travel, gaining additional ‘fit-for-travel’ medical certificates too, as required by the authorities in the joining port.
Jensen said, “It is essential that everyone strictly follows the IMO protocols as the shipping industry strives to return to normal business and we are grateful that many countries are now recognizing the essential role of seafarers and enabling them to travel to and from ships. However, still many countries are not allowing crew changes and the rules under which crew changes are allowed varies from country to country making crew changes very complex.
“The price tag for the necessary COVID-19 precautions comes at a difficult time for the shipping industry in general but we are fortunate that the owners which Danica works with are all providing the necessary funds to get overdue crew off the vessels.”
Having put in place new preventative measures and safe procedures, Danica, which specializes in the supply of crew from Eastern Europe, has managed to resume operations from many of its offices.
Jensen said, “Crew changes are still presenting our biggest challenge but we are doing all we can to facilitate the transfer of crew to and from vessels. Although we are able to do crew changes in many ports now we also have a number of vessels in places where crew changes are not allowed at all, or rules are so strict that it makes crew changes impracticable, and consequently the number of overdue crew members on these vessels is growing and the situation is becoming urgent.”
As Eastern Europeans are relative free to travel, Danica has seen a significant increase in requests for crew from owners who are finding that travel restrictions in their regular crew supply countries are proving a barrier. At the same time Danica has experienced a doubling of applications from seafarers who are eager to get back to sea as they have been home for a long time without an income and they are now experiencing financial distress. “We are trying to get the these two ends to meet and we have extremely busy days in our recruitment departments,” Jensen said.
Agreeing with the recently-expressed view from the Greek Shipowners Association which predicts that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to disrupt the manning of vessels well into to 2021, Jensen warned, “The entire crew planning process is disrupted. Crew returning after a long period onboard want a longer vacation and will be reluctant to return to sea soon, which in turn impacts those onboard who are due to be relieved. It will take long time before we come back to a steady crewing scheduling.”