With all the stories about large numbers of seafarers unable to leave their vessels and return home at the end of their contracts it might appear that crew changes are currently impossible due to COVID-19 related port and travel restrictions around the world. But this is not the case as Nortun explained, however, it does require a lot of leg work and planning.
One of the issues is the frequent changes to regulations and keeping track of these, as one day a port will be open for crew changes, but the next day it might not be.
“We manage to get things done but it takes a really long time and we can’t do any large changes, these are not possible. We take one person here and one person there, but it’s not possible to have a structure as you normally have,” Nortun explained.
In terms of where Thome has managed to make some crew changes he said they have been able to repatriate Filipino crew from Hong Kong and East European crew in the US.
“In the US is still possible to do crew changes from the vessel to the airport and out,” Nortun said. He noted that another issue was the availability of flights.
Thome has also been able to do crew changes with Chinese seafarers in China. However, it is more time consuming than normal in terms of permits and documentation.
However, normal, planned staggered crew changes where say four or five seafarers from a vessel change over at a single time are not possible. Looking ahead Nortun said: “If we can have a wish it is that some of the big ports open up first, maybe the big bunkering ports.”
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