Danica: Ukrainian Seafarers Face New Crew Change Challenges

Port of Odessa, where Danica has a crewing office with 50 staffmembers (File image courtesy George Chernilersky)

Published Feb 25, 2022 1:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

Danica Crewing Specialists, one of the leading crewing agencies for Ukrainian and Russian seafarers, has an office in Odessa with more than 50 staff. It supplies some 1,500 Ukrainian and 300 Russian seafarers to the international shipping trade.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, the Odessa port area and nearby military installations were subject to shelling by Russian forces during the initial assault on Ukraine. Some civilian residential areas also sustained impacts.

“It is difficult to believe that we see a war in Europe in 2022. My thoughts are with the innocent people in Ukraine, and let us hope the hostilities will cease as soon as possible,” said Henrik Jensen, Managing Director of Danica Crewing Specialists. “All our office staff, seafarers and their families remain safe. Although we did not foresee this happening today we have contingency plans in place, including emergency communication, and we are providing assistance to our shipowners and seafarers.”

Although its Odessa office is closed, Danica continues to operate to the best extent possible following its contingency plans. Telephone and internet are still functional. Office staff continue to work from home, if they are not in shelters, and they are reachable through emails and mobile telephones. Its other offices are fully operational, including sites in Hamburg and Riga.

“Without doubt this will cause a lot of stress and anxiety amongst the seafarers onboard who are concerned for their family and friends at home. Under these difficult conditions our office staff remain in contact with seafarers and their families to the greatest possible extent,” Jensen said.

With crew changes now difficult, it is expected that some crew will remain onboard for longer deployments, as they did during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. As all airports in Ukraine remain closed, Danica is advising its clients to keep ‘due off’ Ukrainian crew onboard if possible.

The firm had some crew “in the air” yesterday when the airports closed, and more crew are due to return to Ukraine in the coming days. Danica has established a center for them in Warsaw, Poland, assisted by Polish line SMT Shipping. The plan is for the crew to stay together in a hostel until the situation clarifies and the company is able to return them by bus to their homes. Danica is also offering to assist other manning agencies or crews in this way.

Ukrainian crew who are still in Ukraine cannot join their ships. Presently, men between 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country, although Danica has reports that some crews and their families managed to escape the country.

 “We are ready with a bus service to send joining crews to airports abroad as soon as it possible and safe. For the time being it is not safe to travel across Ukraine due to the ongoing fighting,” Jensen said. “We also offer replacement crew from our other offices, including Riga and Saint Petersburg, as well as through our associated/partner offices in Romania, Turkey, Georgia and the Philippines.”

Crew pay may also be a challenge. “At present we have been advised that payment to individual crew members will be possible and therefore expect this month’s payroll to be unaffected. As sanctions are increasing, we are also in contact with our bank in Germany regarding what effect the imposed sanctions against Russia will have for transferring allotments to Russian seafarers. We are keeping our owners and crew fully updated on these issues,” he said.