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Romeo Stavar-Vergea, general manager of CMA Ships Romania

Eastern Europe crew demand surges on Asian supply nations Covid lockdowns

Eastern European seafarer supply nations have experienced a surge in demand from shipowners and managers for officers and ratings due to the Covid-19 lockdowns in India and Philippines.

Senior executives from the crewing industry in Poland, Ukraine and Romania told the CrewConnect Europe Virtual Event that they had all seen surge in demand for seafarers over the last six months.

“When the big countries like Philippines and India were locked down and suddenly their seafarers were not able to travel any more a lot of owners come back can we supply the European seafarers,” said Dariusz Jellonnek, general manager for V.Ships in Poland.

However, the availability of Polish crew limited the impact of the demand as the supply cannot suddenly increase. “Of course there are newcomers from the college who just got their certificates so it was slightly easier to put the young, less experienced people with clients,” he explained.

Sergiy Khlopkov, deputy managing director for Marlow Navigation Ukraine, said, “We felt a big surge in demand for Ukranian ratings due to obvious reasons due to lockdown in Asia.” As result of the surge in demand for ratings the company has seen a shift from a normal supply ratio of 70% officers and 30% ratings to 65% officers and 35% ratings.

Coming to Romania, Romeo Stavar-Vergea, general manager of CMA Ships Romania, has seen a surge in demand for both junior officers and ratings. He noted that Romania had not been attractive to owners and managers for ratings due to an increased standard of living in the country and as a result higher wages.

“Now companies are looking to Romanian ratings which becomes a bit difficult these days. People are qualified and available, but the level of living increased in Romania these past years so they are not the cheap labour force of the past,” he explained.

Also the high demand for junior officers means that ratings are being quickly promoted, further reducing supply.

As owners and managers turn to Eastern Europe due to the Covid-19 lockdowns in Asia Jellonnek raised the question as to whether this demand would continue as the situation eased rather than taking Filipinos onboard.

All three speakers recounted tales chartering planes, using buses and even river boats, to try and facilitate crew changes during the travel restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stavar-Vergea said “We have been very disappointed working with authorities and governments as they are practically deaf to our requests for the seafarers, and it still continues in some countries.”

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