Challenges of crew change during COVID-19 pandemic

By Captain Tajudeen Alao

Crew change at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic has become very challenging. The complaint from the seafarer platform is that people have overstayed and they want to come out. So, they are looking at the odds.

Though the seafarers are safer to be on board than coming down. Even when they come down, there are logistics challenges of how they can get transportation back home.

Besides that, the system now demands crew change plan to cover between 14-21 days ahead. And how would that synchronize with the movement of the ship in and out of the port? It is a big logistic problem.

For the crew, clearance must come from the National Centre for Diseases Contol (NCDC) and the Port Health. It is a lot of problems for the shipping companies and agents to run the errand, it is not a smooth operation.

In this case, we are talking of Nigerian seafarers. And for the international seafarers, their own case is worse. So, crew off the ship would be difficult. And before they take crew off the ship, there must be a replacement.

Considering both ways, that is, crew who have to leave the ship and those who have to change them. They will have to be quarantined for 14 days minimum. Who pays to keep them in the hotel? No commercial flights and movement by road is highly restricted.

All these together, explain the reason that the seafarers are advised to be a bit more patient. Besides the clearances to be obtained from the relevant health authorities, movement home would surely be difficult.  

Clearly, this is a lot of problem for oil and gas and for international business. Typical of the situation was when a ship master was needed last week and they could not get one. A foreigner was ready to stay in hotel, but there was no flight for him to take to the place.

Dynamics of shipping operations will definitely change after COVID-19.

Captain Tajudeen Alao is the President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners.

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