Crew change stopped due to pandemic chaos
Crew turnover, vital to sustaining global maritime trade, has been paralyzed by a new wave of coronavirus-related restrictions, with most seafarers in the world unable to leave ships after expiration of contracts or get back to work.
Shipowners and operators report escalating chaos with personnel changes and crew shortages as newly introduced and ever-expanding quarantine and immigration restrictions are in place at key hubs in the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
Arbitration has also emerged on the issue of crew citizenship: preference is given to sailors who are easier to move, for example, the Chinese, to the detriment of Indian sailors and crew members from other countries in Southeast Asia.
Logistics has almost stopped: if there are visas, there are no flights, if there are flights, then to the wrong destinations. The current conditions for vaccines are limited, and there is no decision on how to vaccinate seafarers at sea.
Lloyd's List learned of the numerous coronavirus infections on ships, as the new strains defy testing protocols and are more difficult to detect with seven to 14 days of quarantine at sea. Governments say its deadline could be extended to 21 days, which will only worsen the situation.
Of the world's 1.5 million seafarers, some 300,000 are already stuck on expired ships and the number is growing rapidly, posing a significant threat to the well-being of crews. At the same time, due to the bans introduced by India, the Philippines and China, there was an acute shortage of them.
“Crew shortages abound,” said Kishore Rajwanshi, managing director of Fleet Management, the world's second largest ship manager, employing 12,000 Indian sailors.
To the deficit is added the political situation in Myanmar: this country, according to the UN, provides about 26,000 seafarers. Some seafarers cannot enter their country, while others cannot leave it. In Myanmar, the issuance of visas or sea certificates has stopped, and many embassies are closed.
The rapidly deteriorating crew situation around the world has intensified lobbying to raise awareness among governments, highlighting the urgency of establishing vaccination programs.