As a result of the mutation, with a higher transmission rate, countries have increased travel restrictions including ports for crew change for vessels arriving from other countries where the new variant has been detected.
Henrik Jensen, managing director of Danica Crewing Services, warned: “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.”
The period of late March through to early June 2020 saw an almost total shut down of the global logistics system for crew change causing hundreds of thousands of seafarers to be trapped on vessels after their contracts expired. While the situation improved the second half of last year with owners and managers significantly reducing numbers of seafarers overdue for crew rotation, further restrictions could easily exacerbate the issue, bringing it back to the levels seen earlier in 2020.
Jensen explained: “In response to the rapid increase in infections around the world, governments are imposing new or additional measures including travel restrictions. Although these measures are understandable in the circumstances, based on scientific evidence, and intended to provide protection for their populations, they also cause operational and logistical problems for crew changes.”
This can include issues such as Covid-19 tests at short notice and the availability of accommodation to isolate crew members awaiting test results.
Jensen believes that local restrictions will trump moves to gain wider acceptance of the IMO international crew change protocols in the near term.
“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,” he warned.
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