In fact, coronavirus outbreak has posed major challenges to every industry, as it is a completely new situation. In response to those difficulties, shipping companies along with authorities have joined their forces to keep global business activity and remain operational.
Struggling to maintain its operations during this unprecedented crisis, the shipmanagement sector is dealing with vital challenges. Speakers of the BIMCO’s “COVID-19’s implications for shipmanagement” webinar, V.Group’s Director HSEQ & Technical, Matt Dunlop, and Spliethoff’s Head of QHSE, Marco van Rijsinge highlighted several tasks, including:
- Onboard precautions
In case that no illness presents onboard, the ship’s accommodation can be considered a safe zone. But in order to keep it safe, visits must be minimized and controlled.
In light of the situation, ship management companies have applied a detailed security plan for every pilot, master, surveyor etc. that gets onboard, by ensuring a single point of entry, taking body temperature checks, providing PPE equipment and completing health questionnaires.
At the same time, keeping social distancing, sanitizing meeting spaces or cabins, arranging paperwork and payment through e-mails are also set onboard every vessel, so as to avoid a possible infection.
On the other hand, if a crewmember is tested coronavirus positive, ship managers have taken a proactive step of appointing an industry leading medical company to provide medical advice and response 24/7.
In the worst-case scenario, there is the option of specific isolation of each vessel and its affected individuals.
- Crew changes
With crew changes being suspended until further notice due to the travel restrictions, all crew contracts can be extended till 15th of May. Therefore, seafarers are stranded at sea or stuck in their homes, unable to either leave or get onboard the ship.
Prolonged period of services, mental health problems or family difficulties are among others the issues that seafarers are currently dealing with due to the crew changes suspension.
In response to this, ship managers communicate and listen to their personnel in order to further support and understand them.
These discussions will continue until the release of the crew, and will become more challenging. For now, we understand the situation, but within a couple of weeks the situation changes.
…said V.Group’s Director HSEQ & Technical, Matt Dunlop.
May the main focus be on seafarers which are stranded onboard, seafarers ashore, stuck in their homes is a major issue as well. Namely, seafarers ashore still wait to be paid, as they’re feeling desperate to get back on ships as soon as the situation improves.
Another vital issue is the designation of seafarers as “keyworkers”. With 92% of the world’s goods transported by sea, shipmanagement sector is collaborating with recognized organizations and major industry players and urge governments to classify crew and repatriate them as soon as possible.
- Regulatory compliance
To ensure business continuity during the outbreak, ship managers try to maintain certification, commercial acceptance and safety within the operations. “We are working closely with Flag states and Class societies in order to commence the dialog at the earliest opportunity. So far we haven’t account many issues, but as the global restrictions continue, the challenges will be greater” Mr.Matt Dunlop added.
Although 95% of the authorities are fully complying with the onboard precautions, some of them prioritize inspections onboard the accommodations rather than follow the safety measures.
Speaking of ship certificates, crew contracts, surveys and audits are expiring, with vessels being unable to renew their documentation.
In light of the above, the International Chamber of Shipping published a report on managing seafarers' certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shipowners and operators are advised that only the Administration can make decisions about the approach they will pursue in cases where necessary surveys and audits cannot take place in time and result in the expiration of ship certificates.
..the Association reported.
- Technical operations
Concerning technical operations, dry-docking process is also a challenge for shipowners due to the uncertainty that the crisis has brought. “We are a little bit anxious for the moment about the dry-docking operations as we don’t know if ships going for dry dock, they will get out on time” …as Spliethoff’s Head of QHSE, Marco van Rijsinge said.
Apart from the dry dock, critical spare parts and vessels’ repair experience the same challenges, as there are delivering and pricing impacts as well.
Commenting about the current challenges, BIMCO noted:
Some ships may experience operational challenges such as shipyards or dry docks closing down. In addition, surveys and audits can in some cases not be conducted because surveyors are unable to attend the ships due to travel restrictions or quarantines.
Concluding, in line with BIMCO, WHO, INTERTANKO, and ICS guidelines, ship managers are compiling all the information together and keep monitoring the situation in order to make sure their policies are appropriate and fit for purpose.