“I believe that collective, carefully managed crew changes at designated ports could help us tackle this crisis,” said Capt Unni.
“Seafarers returning home would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period, of course. And those joining ships would need to pass a mandatory medical, including a Covid-19 test.
“Even if Covid-19 infections subside, which we all hope they will do, putting a plan in place now will be good preparation for the future.”
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has estimated there are around 100,000 crew changes a month but most are being deferred at the present time as ports across the globe ban such movements as they try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shipping agents Waterfront Maritime Services has published a list on the status of the ability to perform crew changes around the world on its LinkedIn page and it shows a very limited number of ports where crew changes be carried out, and even then getting crew to these could be extremely difficult, if not impossible at present.
“In many ports crew changes are simply prohibited,” said Cap Unni. “Elsewhere, vessels from some origins are now forced to remain at anchorage in quarantine for up to 14 days before they can dock.
“To make matters worse, it is also becoming increasingly difficult for crew to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables such are the restrictions placed on port agents and captains.
He stated: “This is a time bomb. Even under normal circumstance, seafaring is stressful and involves spending long periods of time away from friends and family.”
In an effort to resolve the issue Capt Unni said he is now reaching out to like-minded stakeholders to expedite collective crew changes.
“We have already spoken to a number of leading ship owners and they agree this is a positive way forward,” he said. “We have also identified a number of ports where we think this can be actioned.
“We are now approaching leading shipping organisations and have contacted the IMO about how we can move this forward with the utmost haste.”
Addressing the view put forward by some managers and crewing specialists that seafarers remain safe from the pandemic by staying at sea Capt Unni commented: “I have heard the argument that seafarers are safest at sea waiting this out. But nobody knows how long this pandemic will last. Doing nothing is not a plan.
“The inability to enact crew changes is a threat to the mental health of seafarers. They can’t stay at sea indefinitely.”
Synergy as company employs over 12,000 seafarers on more than 300 vessels.
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