Crew Vaccinations and Change Statistics Continue Positive Trends

crew change statistics and vaccination rates show continued improvement
Crew vaccination rates continue to rise (file photo)

Published Oct 1, 2021 7:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The challenges facing seafarers that have dominated the headlines for the past 18 months are continuing to stabilize and show slight signs of improvement according to the latest monthly update on the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator. The data compiled from the largest ship managers shows a positive trend for the issues of crew change while vaccination rates among seafarers appear to be accelerating according to the Global Maritime Forum which reports the monthly indicator results.

The latest report shows that the number of seafarers onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract has decreased from 8.9 to 7.9 percent in the last month. Similarly, the number of seafarers onboard vessels for over 11 months has slightly decreased from 1.2 to 1.0 percent. These statistics continue the trend that began to appear in the summer months as the numbers stopped increasing as more seafarers were able to complete crew changes on schedule.

The October Indicator also shows encouraging numbers on seafarers receiving vaccinations for COVID-19. The percentage from the past month is up from 21.9 to 31.1 percent of seafarers reporting they have received vaccination for the virus. The percent increase increased from the numbers the prior month, suggesting that seafarers are gaining increasing access to vaccines. These numbers are still lagging behind the rates of many large ship-owning nations, the European Union, or the U.S. but illustrate a positive trend.

“It is encouraging to see the vaccination rate for seafarers going up and the number of seafarers onboard their vessels beyond the expiry of contracts is decreasing slightly,” says Kasper Søgaard, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Strategy and Development, Global Maritime Forum. “However, lockdowns, flight cancellations, and travel restrictions persist, thus posing continued challenges to crew changes globally.” 

Ship managers submitting input from the monthly updates continue to report travel bans and restrictions for certain geographies, challenging crew supply from those countries. Issues were also cited with the approval of specific vaccines and of vaccines where both doses were received in different locations.

A shortage of crew was also first reported last month and this arose again as a difficulty that the ship managers are facing. Due to continued lockdowns, seafarer academies have been closed or operating remotely, which has delayed the training of seafarers, and lockdowns and travel bans have also impacted crew supply.

While the global shipping organizations continue to warn of the challenges to maintaining ship operations as the pandemic stretches on, they are also encouraged by the positive steps. For example, the Singapore Shipping Association, in collaboration with PSA and the Fullerton Health Group, has set up a seafarers’ vaccination (SEAVAX) center in Singapore. The effort expands on a trial program and has received financial support from numerous organizations. The center, which began operations yesterday, September 30, will administer vaccines to seafarers, starting with signing-on crew arriving in Singapore. Other efforts in Europe, North America, and Asia also continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for crew members when their ships arrive in port.