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Charterers accused of preventing crew changes

Charterers accused of preventing crew changes
Sam Chambers November 3, 2020

INTERCARGO, the body representing the interests of dry bulk sector operators, has hit out at a number of charterers who are actively preventing crew changes with many seafarers now stranded at sea for a year and a half.

INTERCARGO has learned that in a number of instances, charterers in the dry bulk sector have been preventing much needed crew changes from taking place during the period of the charter, despite the shipowner agreeing to accept the associated costs.

In these instances, charterers have been seen to simply ignore relevant provisions and charter party clauses that could be employed. It has been reported that bulk carriers changing crews in certain countries in Southeast Asia are being treated as “toxic” by charterers for the 14 days following crew change, INTERCARGO reported.

“INTERCARGO strongly condemns the non-compassionate practices of some charterers of dry bulk carriers, in their rejection of crew change outright during the charter period. This flies in the face of industry wide efforts to offer seafarers the essential rest that they have been so long without during the COVID-19 pandemic, and which is essential to the safe operation of the shipping sector,” the dry bulk shipping organisation wrote in a statement issued yesterday.

“Ironically, this appalling practice has been reported primarily in the dry bulk sector, where the prevention of seafarer fatigue is of special concern,” INTERCARGO added.

Bulk carriers on tramp trading routes call at many more ports than other shipping sectors, piling added strain on an already fatigued workforce with no hope of crew change. A crew must be well rested to operate a ship in compliance with the voyage instructions from the charterers: to load and discharge the cargo, ballast and de-ballast, wash, dry and present cargo holds, open/close hatch covers and carry out the multitude of associated tasks to ensure safe operation of the vessel.

“INTERCARGO wishes to state unequivocally that this issue goes further than the charterer’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) or environmental, social and governance (ESG) responsibilities, and displays a clear lack of appreciation of one of the greatest humanitarian crises to affect the maritime sector,” the London-based body stated.

Splash reported in August how certain charterers were increasingly requesting for a ‘no crew change’ clause to be inserted into charter parties, demanding owners pick up the cost related to deviation and time lost.

Charterers have been urged repeatedly to play their part in ensuring crew get home.

Speaking with Splash TV in July, Francesco Gargiulo, the CEO of the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), said there has been little appetite on the charterers’ part to share in the problems that the industry is facing regarding crew changes.

Shipping organisation BIMCO has developed a deviation clause, which seeks to share some of the financial burden of getting crew repatriated during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The sad news is there’s been very little uptake of that clause because there is little appetite on the charterers’ part to share in the problems that the industry is facing,” said IMEC’s Gargiulo.