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Friday, January 15, 2021 

Crew changes are once more becoming difficult as much of the world locks down again following the emergence of several new and more transmissible variants of Covid-19, warns crew specialist Danica.

With travel corridors being closed and new travel restrictions imposed, airlines are once again cancelling or reducing flights which poses a problem for crew transiting to vessels. Ports too, if they have reopened, are imposing greater restrictions.

Henrik Jensen, MD Danica Crewing Services, said: “I believe we may be heading for a new crew change crisis every bit as bad as last spring. Over the past six months crew changes have been possible in many cases, although they have been costly and complex. However, now we are seeing a range of new restrictions and barriers to crew travel while also facing some serious issues in relation to crew health risk factors. I can foresee this impacting heavily on crew changes for the next few months. In response to the rapid increase in infections around the world, governments are imposing new or additional measures including travel restrictions. Although these measures are understandable in the circumstances, based on scientific evidence, and intended to provide protection for their populations,   they also cause operational and logistical problems for crew changes. For example, requiring Covid-19 tests at a set period before travel isn’t always easy to comply with depending on where the crew change is being effected from. Tests may not be available at short notice and there may not be available accommodation in which to isolate crew members while they await the results."

Jensen pointed out that the more rapidly transmissible new coronavirus variants also pose a greater threat to seafarers and ships. “One or more Covid-19 infected patients on a vessel is a very serious situation as there is insufficient medical care available onboard to treat a serious case. It is very difficult to mitigate this risk and in some cases we have to abandon crew change plans if they involve a long transit or a high-risk area,” he said.

Greater implementation of the IMO’s crew change protocols instead of national rules could improve the situation but Jensen is not optimistic of this being a solution at present. “We are looking at some hard months ahead,” Jensen added. “It seems likely that things will only get better once the vaccination programmes around the globe begin to take effect.”

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