THE latest data from the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator suggests the number of seafarers working beyond the expiry of their contracts has dipped since last month.

Figures dropped slightly from 5% in March to 4.2% in April, which is the first decrease recorded since December last year.

However, Global Maritime Forum managing director and head of institutional strategy and development Kasper Søgaard said crew changes are being affected by the Ukraine conflict and the COVID-19 outbreak in China.  

“The April indicator shows some positive news with a slight decrease, after several months of increasing numbers and fears of a re-escalation of the crew change crisis,” Mr Søgaard said.

“Nonetheless, the conflict in Ukraine and the recent Chinese infection spike are having impacts on crew changes.”

The Neptune Indicator also suggests the number of seafarers working onboard vessels beyond the maximum 11-month period has remained stable since last month, at 0.4%

The Global Maritime Forum said the current crew change situation varies significantly across parts of Asia.

For example, in the Philippines, the government has eased restrictions and seafarer quarantine mandates following a decline in COVID-19 cases.

In contrast, a surge in infections in China has led to increasingly stringent restrictions and port closures, interfering with crew change.

It has been reported that shipowners are facing operational challenges and costs in the repatriation of seafarers.

At the same time, crew demand is reportedly shifting to Asia as sanctions and port restrictions stem from the conflict in Ukraine.

However, the April crew change indicator also recorded a positive trend in seafarer vaccinations, from 72.8% in March to 77.2% this month, which is a 4.4% increase.

According to the Global Maritime Forum, the numbers surpass those of some leading European shipping nations, with a rate catching up to that of nations with the highest vaccination rates.

This month, managers reported the same challenges around vaccine hesitancy as in previous months but noted some increase in vaccine uptake among Ukrainian and Russian seafarers.

Nonetheless, there remains a need for more booster shots in the seafaring community.