Seatrade Maritime News recently sat down virtually with members of travel management specialist CWT’s energy, marine and resources (ERM)team to understand the processes and hurdles involved in the current environment.
Peter Brady, vice president global service, solutions and innovations for CWT ERM, says, “The nationalistic interests of governments have really put up barriers to effectively to cater for the needs of this industry.”
Brady highlighted four key areas that have to be considered in planning crew travel in this environment.
1 – Port implications, and restrictions on movements and whether seafarers can embark and disembark vessels.
2 – Visas, both entry and transit visas.
3 – Government requirements such as shutdowns and quarantines
4 – Flights – whether there are flights, cancellations, connections and the documentation required for those connections.
Looking at the shipowner or manager in the equation, Brady says, “The other part is the company or client themselves, and the issue there is how do they go about the rostering and the actual processes of seafarers, that’s changed very significantly. The other thing that is around approvals and then I think what is really important is duty of care.”
The result of these factors is much more complex scenario to deal with than traditional travel. Marty Lonergan, senior director, global customer group for CWT ERM, explains: “People can still travel but there are so many more layers, so it actually takes a lot longer to do typically simple request in the past becomes a far more complex and time-consuming activity from a processing point of view.”
The result is a that a sector that had been seeking to automate prior to the pandemic finds a much greater human element is required to manage the process.
“The manual intervention that is actually required to support the seafaring community is also a challenge we have had to address as we go through this process. The need for that human element to validate that actual aircraft is going to take off with those travellers has been a key component. Things have been changing on a daily basis,” Lonergan says.
Given the challenges faced in arranging crew changes and travel the amount of time available in planning has become critical.
“The number one recommendation is time and advance lead time is going to be critical so that will then enable us to either work either the commercial aircraft and scheduled services that are operating or assess what charter option is available,” he says.
With limited scheduled commercial flights, compounded by issues such as cancellations, a need to transfer seafarers directly between vessels and airports, and limits on international arrivals into key destinations charter flights are option an increasing number of shipping companies are choosing.
Charter flights are a more expensive option on a per head basis but provide more flexibility to work around delays, and a guarantee against flight cancellations, which can add significant costs.
“Certainly putting people on a charter is going to come at a premium, but it might then provide more flexibility. We know in the seafaring cost is a big factor particularly in the current environment,” Lonergan says.
If it is a regular charter rather than a one-off this can help reduce costs, as well being able to put people on the flight in both directions. The sharing of charters among multiple clients can help to make it more cost effective. “That element is where we been able to work with customers to work across the industry to fill aircraft or to work in isolation because they have the right amount of people.”
Looking ahead the situation remains highly fluid and restrictions in some key locations have increased in recent days. “The challenge with current pandemic is things continue to evolve and governments make decisions regarding restrictions on an ongoing basis,” Lonergan says.
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