Key challenges amid COVID-19 from the operators’ perspective

The coronavirus crisis has brought many changes in the industry; from travel restrictions to crew changes. This is a new situation that not only shipping but the whole humanity faces. As far it concerns our industry, we need to reassure seafarer’s health and safety at sea as well as to minimize disruptions in trade. In this context, Capt Panagiotis Nikiteas, PGDip, MSc, MEd, HSQE Manager / DPA / CSO, Maran Dry Management Inc, enlists all current challenges that ship operators face.

There is first time for everything!

From helmet and overall to face mask and gloves. From ID security control at the gangway to temperature reading. From going ashore for a night out when in port to prohibition to set a foot on quay. From warm hospitality to social distancing. From smile to terror.

Despite the phenomenal impact the CONVID-10 pandemic has on all of us at all levels with over a billion people under curfew, shipping continues and has to continue, unless we want to face transport of good disrupted with unprecedented effect to the world.


Period is challenging but ship owners/managers/masters/crew do have the mentality and ability to manage waves, even abnormal ones, as have always done.

Some areas of routine operations that are or could be affected are listed below (not exhaustive):

  • Crew changes are seriously interrupted if not banned;
  • Crew contracts may need to be extended;
  • Crew shore leave is seriously inhibited;
  • Supplies of stores and spares becomes cumbersome;
  • Courier services are interrupted or seriously delayed;
  • Delivery of hard bound books, publications, original certificates is affected, necessitating/ forcing Authorities to accept e-copies;
  • Attendances of class surveyors/auditors/inspectors, service engineers, service suppliers for Statutory andClassification services, programmers, specialized technicians and repair teams, commissioning personnel, H&M surveyors, P&I correspondents, navigational auditors, internal auditors and Supts etc are practically crippled;
  • Garbage delivery ashore disrupted in many ports;
  • Fresh water supply in few ports affected;
  • Supply of protective equipment and material for crew is extremely difficult due to shortages, pragmatic or not;
  • Shore-side management need to adjust to remote operations and practice contingency and business continuity plans;
  • Denial or delays to enter a port;
  • Change of vessels’ route and/or speed to allow quarantine periods to elapse;
  • Increased Operational Expenses;
  • Flag Administrations with high bureaucracy and low e-infrastructure find it difficult to cope with their tasks;
  • Formal and informal training is interrupted;
  • Cadets may lose their schooling year;
  • Active seafarers may become unavailable as they cannot renew their certificates;
  • Briefings and pre-joining familiarizations substituted with Skype chats;
  • Security personnel boarding / disembarkation for GoA passages affected;
  • Bunkering disruption in case production and supply chain is affected;
  • Delays in Newbuilding vessels deliveries;
  • Delays in vessels waiting to go for scrap;
  • Delays in retrofit projects;
  • Delays or prohibition of vetting inspections thus impact on vessels’ trade-ability;
  • Reduced manning on most organization, making cumbersome even simple tasks;
  • Emergency operations such as medical evacuations and SaR have now added risks and parameters;
  • Companies and vessels that are not geared towards use of e-media will not be able to maintain even an updated SMS;
  • Possible shortage of key people for vessels / ports interactions such as pilots, tug masters etc;
  • Increased fear, stress, fatigue, concern, discrimination and worry.
  • IMO, Flag States, Recognized Organizations, ITF, Port authorities, all public and private organization, owners and managers, are working to keep the afore-mentioned obstacles in a manageable level.

Transport of good by sea is an international venture and vital as the blood in our bodies that transfers oxygen. The restrictions imposed to fight virus spread must be reasonable and pragmatic. The rapid increase of “borders protection” against “virus invasion” must not cause suffocation.

During this war period against an invisible enemy, the tribute goes once more to ALL the seafaring community, who are the unsung heroes but make sure that hospitals have power and our houses have bread.

Their determination, resilience and endurance is a paradigm for social and personal responsibility. We must support them.


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.


About Capt. Panagiotis Nikiteas

Captain Panagiotis Nikiteas is maritime professional with 32 years’ experience span in various sectors of the maritime industry including management, marine, vetting, operations, crewing, safety, quality, environmental, energy, security, health, surveying, incident investigation and training. He had been stationed and worked abroad in Manila, Dubai and Singapore and appreciated the benefits of multi-cultural working environment. He is holding Master’s Degree in Adult Education, Master’s degree in International Shipping with distinction, Post Graduate Diploma in International Shipping and Transport Management and is a graduate form Hydra Merchant Marine Academy with distinction. Panagiotis is the HSQE Manager / DPA / CSO of Maran Dry Management Inc.

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