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Charterers won’t allow crew change

Charterers won’t allow crew change
Yashika F. Torib January 6, 2021

Crew change is reportedly being prevented by some charterers for the duration of their Charter Party Contract with ship owners.

This was the statement made by Edgardo Flores, a veteran ship captain, and general manager of Greek-owned Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Manning Agency.

Flores disclosed that these charterers opted for the safe delivery of their cargoes without compromising its cost. Accordingly, delays caused by crew change incurs huge expenses and financial loss to the charterers.

Charterers are people or organizations that hire vessels from ship owners to transport cargoes to specific countries or destinations.

“This is another blow to seafarers who are physically and mentally tired onboard,” Flores commented, adding that some have already been working on ships for more than 15 months.

Based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006, seafarers can only serve on board a vessel without leave for up to 11 months.

“I cannot begin to imagine the outcome of this new episode to crew change. If charterers will not allow seafarers to return home after their contract and be replaced by a fresh set of the crew if they will not include ‘Crew Change’ in their Charter Party Contract, what will happen to the global shipping industry? Who will be responsible if seafarers ultimately break down while at sea?” Flores asserted.

He furthered that the Greenlane implemented by the Philippines will not be of any help as it has nothing to do with the commercial aspects of shipping. “This is a matter between shipowners and charterers,” he said.

Greenlane allows the free movement of seafarers and personnel across borders and ensures that seafarers are accorded speedy and safe travel, subject to health protocols mandated by the Philippine government, including safe and swift disembarkation and crew change during the COVID-19 pandemic. This also intends to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for both Filipino and foreign seafarers whether inbound, outbound, or transiting during crew change or repatriation.

“We have two vessels that are supposed to pass by Manila to conduct crew change but we are not allowed to do so because there is a stipulation in the Charter Party contract that there should be no diversion for a crew change,” Flores disclosed.

“It would have been allowed if the port where we are loading or discharging cargoes is open for a crew change. However, only a few ports in Asia are open for crew change and this entail ships to divert their course simply to relieve and replace seafarers. This incurs a huge cost for charterers,” he explained.

Flores concluded that talks made by Ilo and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) for the conduct of crew change will be useless without the cooperation of the Ilo member states.

“The final say will always be upon the member states. I don’t think we will have these problems at all if ILO and ITF have power over them,” he said.