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Crew change crisis eases, but concerns rise over omicron variant

Photo: Marcus Hand seafarers.jpg
The number of seafarers onboard over their contract length has continued to fall, but the industry is now concerned over the impact of the omicron variant.

The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator is at its lowest level since it was first published in May with the number percentage of crew onboard beyond their contracts standing at 4.7% at the start of December, compared to 7.1% the previous month.

The number of seafarers onboard vessels for over 11 months has also decreased to 0.7% from 1.0%

“We are encouraged by the Indicator’s December numbers, that shine some hope that the holiday season this year will be better for seafarers. The spread of the new omicron variant could however lead to a reversal of these positive trends. It is important that governments treat seafarers as key workers and continue to allow crew changes, when the proper health protocols are respected,” said Kasper Søgaard, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Strategy and Development, Global Maritime Forum.

Border restrictions and closures are on the rise, particularly with countries in South Africa, following the discovery of the omicron variant. Seatrade Maritime News has already heard anecdotally of one crew due to fly out of South Africa on completion of their contracts only for flights to cancelled due to border closures, and seafarers are now stuck in a hotel.

 In a more positive development there was an 8.5 percentage point increase in seafarer vaccinations, from 41% in November to 49.5% in December.

The indicator is compiled from 10 lead ship managers with around 90,000 seafarers onboard. Industry observers have noted that situation regarding seafarers reported by these top level companies may not accurately represent the industry as whole