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New Indicator Seeks to Quantify and Inform Crew Change Crisis 

quanity and inform crew change crisis
(IMO photo)

Published May 6, 2021 4:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

More than a year after the global shipping industry came together to highlight the plight of seafarers and the challenges to global trade due to the pandemic, the crew change crisis remains unresolved and has the potential to grow worse according to new information from a collaboration of industry leaders. They point to a resurgence of the virus in shipping centers, such as the current crisis on the Indian subcontinent, which led many jurisdictions to ban Indian crewmembers or seafarers who had traveled in those regions.

“To better understand and address the crew change crisis, there is a need to have access to accurate data that will allow stakeholders to monitor and respond to the situation. This is why we created the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator,” says Graham Westgarth, Chairman of V. Group, and one of the 10 ship managers participating in the project. 

Responding to the ongoing challenge they are launching the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator as part of the ongoing efforts that the multi-stakeholder task force is undertaking to resolve the situation. The new initiative builds on the Neptune Declaration launched in January 2021 and to date more than 800 companies and organizations joined in signing the declaration that was designed to protect seafarers’ rights and keep the global supply chain functioning.

“The crew rotation crisis is far from over. In fact, 2021 is set to be worse than last year, with the recent surge in COVID cases in many crew supply countries making crew change in many cases impossible, due to ports’ shutting down for these nationality seafarers,” said Bjorn Hojgaard, Chief Executive Officer, Anglo-Eastern Univan Group. “The current very low number reported by leading ship management companies is not representative for the actual situation on the ground, and the worsening development in the next few months.”

Collectively the 10 companies cooperating in the indicator have about 90,000 seafarers currently onboard. They say that current data that gives access to the number of seafarers who are impacted by the crew change crisis is limited. The new Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator aims to inform the situation, using data from the managers to provide up-to-date monitor developments and the duration of crew employment contracts. 

“The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator is a step forward to addressing the escalating crew change crisis and the emotional wellbeing of our seafarers,” said Kishore Rajvanshy, Managing Director, Fleet Management. “It allows us to marshal our collective knowledge and data to respond effectively to the situation.”

The first Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator shows that by mid-April 2021, 5.8 percent of seafarers were onboard vessels beyond the end of their contracts and 0.4 percent of seafarers had been onboard vessels for over 11 months. The Maritime Labour Convention states that the maximum continuous period a seafarer should serve on board a vessel without leave is 11 months.

According to the companies participating in the project, the first numbers provide a benchmark from which future developments will be measured. The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator will be published monthly using aggregated data provided by the ship managers. It will monitor two key factors, a weighted average of the percentage of seafarers who have been onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contracts and those onboard over 11 months.

The 10 companies submitting data to the indicator include Anglo-Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management, OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem, and Wilhelmsen Ship Management. The Neptune Declaration was developed by a task force of stakeholders from across the maritime value chain, including A. M. Nomikos, Cargill, Dorian LPG, GasLog, Global Maritime Forum, International Chamber of Shipping, International Maritime Employers’ Council, International Transport Workers’ Federation, ONE, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, Synergy Group, V. Group, and World Economic Forum.