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Crew Change Crisis

Crew change indicator improves, omicron variant gives new challenges

Photo: Marcus Hand seafarers.jpg
The Neptune Crew Change Indicator is at its lowest level since its launch in May last year, but challenges remain with travel, omicron variant restrictions, and vaccination recognition.

The percentage seafarers onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract has decreased to 3.7% from 4.7% in the last month and the number of seafarers onboard vessels for over 11 months has also decreased to 0.4% from 0.7%.

These are the lowest numbers reported for the index since it was started in May 2021, however, mask underlying problems that continue to plague crew change.

For crew change ship managers noted countries in Europe and Asia reviewing protocols due to the omicron variant and flight increases leaving seafarers unable to make the journey home.

“While the January numbers seem encouraging, we must remain cautious as they do not reveal the full impact of omicron as the new infection wave is not yet over,” said Kasper Søgaard, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Strategy and Development, Global Maritime Forum.

“To avoid reigniting the crew-change crisis and reversing these recent positive trends, it is vital that the industry and governments make all efforts to ensure the effect on crew changes of omicron remain minimal.”

Vaccination coverage for seafarers among the companies surveyed in the indicator has improved to 59.8% in January compared to 49.5% a month earlier.

But, again, challenges remain with some vaccines not recognised in all countries, shortened vaccine validity, and access to booster shots.

The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator is based on aggregated data from 10 leading ship managers: AngloEastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management, OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem, and Wilhelmsen Ship Management, which collectively have about 90,000 seafarers currently onboard.

The nature of the companies involved in the survey means it may not accurately reflect the industry as whole, and smaller to mid-sized companies less equipped to deal with current challenges around Covid restrictions.

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