Crew Welfare Improves Despite New Restrictions in Asia

crew welfare improves, increased vaccinations, travel restrictions

Published Nov 2, 2021 7:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

Twenty months into the pandemic, the plight of seafarers continues to show slow signs of improvement, especially with increasing rates of vaccinations. However, new travel restrictions in Asia and especially China, and a lack of recognition for vaccinations continue to challenge the welfare of seafarers according to the latest information from ship managers in the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator.

Aggregating data from 10 leading ship managers, that collectively employ about 90,000 seafarers, the survey shows continued improvement in the crew change situation. The number of seafarers on board vessels beyond the expiration of their contract declined nearly one percentage point last month. The data shows that just over seven percent of seafarers are stuck at sea after their contracts ended.  The number of seafarers on board their ship for 11 months remained stable at just one percent. 

The most positive trend reported by the November Indicator is a 10 percent increase in the vaccination rate for seafarers. Despite limited access to vaccines in large seafaring nations such as the Philippines, the number of ports that now provide vaccines to international seafarers has helped them gain access to vaccines outside their home countries, the report says. Seafarer vaccinations rates reached 41 percent as of the end of October up from 31 percent at the end of the prior month.

“It is positive to see the numbers are slowly improving and there has been good progress with seafarer vaccinations. Nevertheless, the numbers hide the persistent difficulties of global crew changes in repatriating crew and onboarding seafarers, which is likely to continue,” says Kasper Søgaard, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Strategy and Development, Global Maritime Forum. “We must keep on working together to ensure the wellbeing of seafarers, the implementation of global vaccine standards, and the integrity of supply chains.”

Ship managers, however, also report that new national lockdowns, an increase in flight cancellations, travel restrictions, and increasingly strict crew change requirements, especially in Asia, are creating new problems in maintaining crew welfare. 

Some countries are placing still stricter crew change requirements, which has resulted in cancellations or delays in repatriating or onboarding seafarers. Some ship managers also report how the onboarding and repatriation of Chinese seafarers is becoming increasingly difficult, due to stricter Chinese Government isolation requirements on seafarers post sign-off and before repatriation.

Also, despite the progress in getting seafarers vaccinated, the Neptune report cites challenges with governments demanding seafarers be vaccinated with particular vaccines to ensure crew changes. The managers report that this has resulted in seafarers being over-vaccinated with different vaccines.