As explained, with travel corridors being closed and new travel restrictions imposed, airlines are once again cancelling or reducing flights which poses a problem for crew transiting to vessels. Ports too, if they have reopened, are imposing greater restrictions.

In the latest of the instances, Philippines added Wednesday more countries on temporary ban for crew changes, extending the number from 21 to 33.

I believe we may be heading for a new crew change crisis every bit as bad as last spring. Over the past six months crew changes have been possible in many cases, although they have been costly and complex. However, now we are seeing a range of new restrictions and barriers to crew travel while also facing some serious issues in relation to crew health risk factors. I can foresee this impacting heavily on crew changes for the next few months,

...Henrik Jensen, Managing Director of Danica Crewing Services, warns.

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

Requiring Covid-19 tests at a set period before travel is not always easy to comply with, Mr Jensen explained, depending on where the crew change is being effected from.

Tests may not be available at short notice and there may not be available accommodation in which to isolate crew members while they await the results.

In addition, he pointed out that the more rapidly transmissible new coronavirus variants also pose a greater threat to seafarers and ships, especially in air travel, which requires crew to spend many hours in a contained space with large numbers of other people.

Greater implementation of the IMO’s crew change protocols instead of national rules could improve the situation, but Mr Jensen is not optimistic of this being a solution at present.

While I appreciate and support the international cooperation and effort that has gone into producing this excellent protocol, unfortunately I think that it may be a remote dream as we have local governments rules, rules in the transit airports/countries and individual airline rules, and I do not think it is realistic to expect all these parties to come together.