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Top manager takes aim at unfair coronavirus stance on crew

Top manager takes aim at unfair coronavirus stance on crew
Sam Chamber March 16th, 2020

One of the world’s top shipmanagers has hit out at the unfair treatment of stranded crew thanks to the coronavirus.

Thousands of seafarers around the world are having to adjust to longer time away from home as signing on and off ships has become far trickier thanks to the spread of the illness.

Wilhelmsen has been providing a daily updated map of port restrictions around the world (see below), which clearly shows authorities are clamping down on crew change.

However, Bjorn Hojgaard, the CEO of Anglo-Eastern, one of the world’s largest shipmanagement companies, has questioned why crew are being targeted and not their airline counterparts.

Taking to Twitter today, Hojgaard mused: “With all the travel restrictions/quarantine requirements, how do airline crew manage? Well, they are exempt… which poses the question: Why are the world’s merchant marine crew not also exempt? Supply chains are vital to the world; we must allow seafarers to sign on/off freely.”

The International Labour Office, which serves as the permanent secretariat for the International Labour Organization, last week ruled that flag states can forgo Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) annual leave entitlements for crew thanks to coronavirus containment restrictions.

‘The Office is of the view that the competent authority may authorise – within specific limits – exceptions to the prohibition to forgo annual leave under Standard A2.4, paragraph 3, of the MLC, 2006 for imperative reasons of public health emergency such as the need to contain the current coronavirus outbreak,” the labour bureau stated in an advisory.

The impact on crew repatriation and despatch has been enormous, providing a very significant human kink in global trade in the last couple of months.

“Crew reliefs are being postponed to vessel’s next port of call. Crew are naturally getting anxious and we are supporting them as we must,” Kishore Rajvanshy, managing director of Hong Kong-based Fleet Management, told Splash last month.

With coronavirus spreading, the crew travel headache is worsening.

Anne Steffensen, CEO of Danish Shipping, told Splash: “For the seafarers our members have in the same way as other shipping companies for some time now had challenges with for example crew change in certain parts of the world, and that can now be expected to expand and also include parts of Europe with the increased travel restrictions we see – but we hope to be able to overcome them.”

Nikos Gazelidis, global head of shipping at ATPI, one of the biggest names in crew travel, said he and his team have been working around the clock to make thousands of changes to seafarer travel plans in recent weeks.

“The coronavirus situation continues to change at a significant pace and as a result is impacting on crew travel programmes and itineraries,” Gazelidis told Splash.