You are here

Crew change blah blah

Crew change blah blah
Splash 24/7 July 13, 2020

The UK crew change summit has yielded nothing to fix the seafarer repatriation issue, warns an irate Frank Coles from the Wallem Group.

Last week there was a government conference and 13 countries, and a few associations got together and did what they always do; issued a statement. No plan, no strategy, no timeline or milestones, just a statement without accountability or responsibility. It is four months too late and less than useless in content. No presence by India, Russia and China… that’s well over 50% of seafarers, so it was a waste of time. We have to get these countries engaged in this process.

At least one of those on the call, UAE, is not open for crew changes as I write this. There are flights but no visas. In Europe (a large number of the countries) they want the ‘key workers’ to have a Schengen visa (try getting one today). The less than frequent flights are oversold. Then you have Gibraltar and others who will not recognise a Marshall Islands discharge book and, there are no flights. Try explaining all this to the overdue crew.

It is despicable how the politicians are using this for their own gain. These are the same people who supported the mercy flights for holidaymakers but just issue statements for crew. It is disappointing how Maersk is suddenly talking about the crew welfare when they ignored it in April. Owners are desperate to keep the ships running safely but are thwarted almost daily.

Maintaining healthy crew relates to ship safety, it relates to human rights, it relates to mental wellness. I suspect the risk assessors have just decided we haven’t had a major incident so let’s keep pushing the envelope. Changing crews is a requirement for matrix compliant ships and for well-maintained ships. Changing crews is a long-term logistics exercise, it is not about the current overdue crew, but about the whole process over the next 6/9/15 months, it is all impacted. How did Maersk not see this in April? They, like many others, thought it would blow over?

So, the statement issued is useless. It is useless because nothing is going to change. Until maritime changes the way it makes decisions, nothing will change. While we keep doing the same thing over and over again, nothing will change. So, while we rely on statements from IMO, and government and ICS and the like, we deserve the result we get. But it has to change.

Oil majors and the big commodity charterers and others should be supporting the requirement to deviate where necessary for crew changes. There should be a shared responsibility to solve this crisis, both morally and financially.

Maritime ‘key workers’ should bypass the visa restrictions, a discharge book should be accepted by all, special seafarers’ flights should be made available in key places to key ports. We need a global logistics operation that should be executed by key governments to preserve world trade, human rights and mental welfare.