Representatives from over 30 different shipping businesses around the world took part in the research, the results of which were unveiled this week and show the impact of the global pandemic on crew changes in shipping.


Key findings

  • Almost half of research respondents (45%) state that crew changes have become at least twice as time-consuming and stressful compared to pre-COVID times.
  • Meanwhile, 15% of shipping professionals highlight the increased stress and time reaching a four-fold increase.
  • Over three quarters (77%) of the shipping business representatives surveyed had made use of specially commissioned repatriation charter flights to enable crew changes to happen in 2020. Crew charter flights were a very rare occurrence before the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw international borders closed and flights curtailed.
  • When it comes to planning for the rest of 2021, over a third were considering charter flights – either independently or through industry association collaborations – as part of how they will ensure crew changes can happen.

This research, conducted among participants at CrewConnect at the end of 2020, highlights just some of the extreme challenges facing those who work in the shipping industry,

...Jochem Hemink, head of sales shipping Europe and Asia at ATPI Marine & Energy, said.

Significant repatriation efforts at a previously unthinkable scale are now part of the day to day fabric of our industry when it comes to ensuring crew can safely join vessels and return home again. For shipping businesses this means changing how crew rotations are planned and tackled, ever increasing costs, and developing new areas of expertise,

...he added.

Meanwhile, the survey unveiled how the cost of crew changes is a major challenge for the industry. Almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) have seen crew changes get more expensive since March 2020. A quarter (27%) estimate crew changes will cost 10-20% more in 2021 than the previous year, and almost a third (32%) are planning for cost increases to be around the 20-40% mark.

In addition, a 55% of shipping organisations are working to move crew changes to what are regarded as ‘easy’ ports with fewer Covid-19 restrictions in place, better protocols to allow seafarers to travel, and sufficient connecting flight capacity.

Almost two-thirds of the shipping businesses we talked to are seeing a spiralling mix of increased costs and less time in which to deliver crew changes. Almost two-thirds (64%) are having to submit additional reporting on the costs of crewing and travel as businesses look to find efficiencies,

...Hemink concluded.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, travel restrictions have forced hundreds of thousands of seafarers to overrun their contracts, rising concerns over ship safety, crew fatigue and access to healthcare. Meanwhile, the crew change issue is now becoming more complicated with much of the world locking down again in light of the new COVID-19 variants.

See also: A timeline of industry’s initiatives to crew change crisis