The Great Crew Change Crisis

The Impact of Covid-19 on Crew Changes

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a plethora of complications, with one of the most notable being the worsening of the current Crew Change Crisis.

The magnitude of this problem started to come to light in May 2020, with the Chief Human Resources Officer at Thome’s ships revealing that 12% of their 5,500 seafarers were still on their vessels despite their contracts having expired.

Blame for this was squarely pinned on the restrictions placed in various countries on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic. This had resulted in thousands of seafarers being unable to join different vessels or return home.

The Impact of the Crew Change Crisis

A recent survey led by Lloyd’s Register (LR) in collaboration with The Mission to Seafarers highlighted the effect that the crew change crisis is having on seafarers in terms of their mental and physical wellbeing.

The Seafarers Happiness Index report from Q4 2020 corroborated these findings, with some senior officers commenting that the current crew change crisis is the worst they have experienced for decades. The result was a general decline in mental health and wellbeing amongst seafarers, many of whom were already struggling to cope with complications caused by the pandemic.

At the time of writing, as many of 150,000 seafarers are stranded on vessels due to Covid-19 restrictions, this is down from the 400,000 at its peak in mid 2020. Some of these seafarers have found themselves in this situation for well over a year.

The Neptune Declaration

The Mission to Seafarers has been calling for changes to be made to ensure that the current crew change crisis can be addressed.

Following initial discussions held at the Global Maritime Forum’s Virtual High-Level Meeting in 2020, The Mission to Seafarers joined many other maritime organisations in signing The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change.

This agreement, which has also been signed by the ICS, ITF and Global Maritime Forum, is a collective agreement which is calling for the following changes to be made:

  1. Seafarers to become recognised as Key Workers and granted priority access to Covid-19 vaccinations
  2. Implement gold standard health protocols for seafarers based on existing best practice
  3. Facilitate crew changes via increased collaboration between charters and ship operators
  4. Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.

It is hoped that given the sheer number of influential organisations to have signed this joint pact, that those with sufficient power and influence will be able to action these changes. This will go some way towards finally addressing the long running crew change crisis.

Seeking Help

If you are a seafarer who has been impacted by the crew change crisis then please feel free to contact your local chaplain for further assistance. You will find more information online detailing how you can contact a chaplain.

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