Danica: Crew Changes Should Be Minimized Due to COVID-19 Risk

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Published Mar 24, 2020 6:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Crewing specialist Danica is calling on ship operators to exercise caution when making crew changes during the coronavirus outbreak. Despite calls from the ITF and others for crewmembers to be allowed to change over on schedule, Danica Crewing managing director Henrik Jensen warns that seafarers face a bigger risk of catching the virus while they travel to and from their postings. It is better to extend contracts where possible, Jensen advises.

“I understand why the ITF, ICS and others are arguing that seafarers should continue to travel to and from vessels for regular crew changeovers. However, with a potential 100,000 seafarers transiting each month, I do not believe this is the best approach at this present time," Jensen said. “Some vessel operators think it is stressful for crew to stay onboard for longer . . . However, for those with contract lengths of four to seven months, or less, I think it is not a problem to stay longer, rather than risk becoming infected as they transit home, or to jeopardise the health of those remaining by potentially bringing infected seafarers on to the vessel in replacement." 

Jensen is primarily concerned about the risk to seafarers falling ill at sea. “No commercial vessels are equipped to deal with a crew member seriously ill from coronavirus Covid-19 who may be in need of ventilation and intensive care. Help could be very far away if the vessel is on a long voyage – and even may not be readily available in port. Secondly, if the virus comes onboard then it will almost certainly affect several persons, if not the entire crew.  Will the ship then be able to operate in a safe way? How can vessel operators provide medical care to an entire crew far out at sea?" he says. 

In his opinion, the safest way is to halt crew changes until the pandemic is under better control, and to put in place measures to make long postings easier for crewmembers who are currently under way. In addition, shipowners should be ready for situations in which onboard seafarers’ relatives become ill or pass away. It will not be possible to repatriate the seafarer to be with their family, as would normally be done.

“These are difficult times and we must all pull together and make sacrifices to help each other. The world owes seafarers a great debt in keeping international trade – especially food and medicines – flowing,” said Jensen. 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.