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THE NEPTUNE Declaration Crew Change Indicator is transitioning to reflect the apparent easing of the so-called crew change crisis.

The Neptune Indicator has been published monthly throughout the pandemic to gauge the number of seafarers working onboard beyond the expiry of their contracts or beyond the maximum contractual period of 11 months at sea.

The indicator draws on data supplied by ship managers Anglo-Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management, OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem Ship Management and Wilhelmsen Ship Management.

Collectively, the ten ship managers have around 100,000 seafarers onboard their vessels. The data is published by the Global Maritime Forum.

GMF said it has observed little change in the numbers reported over the past eight months, pointing to what it calls a “new normal” for the seafaring workforce.

The latest indicator suggests the number of seafarers onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract has decreased slightly from 4.3% in June to 4.2% this month. The number of seafarers onboard vessels for more than 11 months is still at 0.3%.

Ship managers reported few new developments or difficulties in carrying out crew changes in June.

While restrictions in some countries still persist, quarantine requirements have reportedly loosened in China, and overall crew change restrictions have eased.

However, ship managers did report a global shortage of Ukrainian and Russian crew due to the conflict in Ukraine.

GMF said the ten participating ship managers convened in early June – a year after the first report was published – to reflect on the past year and discuss the need for the indicator going forward.

The group reportedly agreed on indicator’s value in providing up-to-date information on the crew change situation. But, as the situation is now stabilising, the group agreed to move from monthly to quarterly reporting.

However, should new COVID-19 variants emerge, or other crises hinder crew change, the frequency of reporting may be increased again.

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GMF said the group also expressed a willingness to explore how the indicator could be developed to cover other areas of importance to seafarer wellbeing, such as access to shore leave.

“I am encouraged by the willingness and desire of ship managers to collaborate and share data that can be used to monitor and push for access to crew change,” Global Maritime Forum managing director Kasper Søgaard said.

“We look forward to continuing the work on the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator and develop the initiative so it continues to support seafarer wellbeing.”

Rohit Mehrotha, group director – Marine HR at Anglo Eastern, said the Neptune Declaration initiative made it possible for companies to work towards the common goal of resolving the crew change crisis.

“The situation has indeed improved but we also want to take care to improve this further,” Mr Mehrotha said.

“We are doing all that it takes to improve the wellbeing of our seafarers. Shore leave for seafarers is another concern which should be tackled by the industry to help seafarers.

“Shore leave is essential for seafarers as they spend weeks and months cooped up on vessels. They need to get ashore to seek welfare, social, medical and psychological support and to have a break from their normal routines.”

Eva Rodriguez, director fleet personnel at Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said the pandemic demonstrated the vulnerability of global supply chains and the importance of seafarers as key workers.

“Despite this, many authorities have not acted on it, treating seafarers primarily as a health risk which caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis at sea,” she said.

“This is not an acceptable way to treat seafarers, who are the frontline workers of the maritime industry carrying 90% of global trade.

“The Neptune Declaration taskforce has identified urgent actions and shared relevant data, experiences, ideas and practicable solutions e.g. for crew change protocols, access to vaccines or air travel connectivity.

“It has become a unique alliance in a highly competitive business. That demonstrates the strong co-operation between companies and colleagues and has the potential to open the door to new initiatives in the industry.”

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