THE NUMBER of seafarers able to leave their vessels has improved in the past months, but Covid restrictions in China are still causing crew change problems.

The first Quarterly Neptune Declaration Indicator reported continued improvement in vaccinations and timely repatriation.

Initially a monthly publication, the indicator has been ongoing throughout the pandemic to gauge the impact of the so-called crew change crisis, but in July transitioned to a quarterly publication to reflect the easing crisis.

Data for the third quarter of 2022 suggests the number of seafarers working beyond the expiry of their contracts has decreased from 4.2% in July to 3.3% in October.

Susanne Justesen, project director human sustainability at the Global Maritime Forum, said the latest figures are encouraging, but crew change is still difficult in some regions.

“The crew change indicator for the third quarter of 2022 shows that the crew change challenges are diminishing globally, however with regional challenges pertaining in Asia, notably in China, due to continued Covid restrictions despite record high vaccination rates overall.

“The most recent indicator thus suggests that the global crew change situation has stabilised.”

The number of seafarers onboard vessels for more than 11 months has remained stable at 0.3% since May 2022, down from 1.3% in August 2021, when the numbers were at the highest level.

The latest data also shows the percentage of vaccinated seafarers has risen from 89.3% to 92.8% during the past quarter, an increase of 3.5% since July.

Participating ship managers have reported fewer crew change restrictions, flight cancellations and lock downs, even though the situation in Ukraine still causes delays overall.

China remains the main challenge due to continued restrictions and lock downs, with non-Chinese crew apparently still being prohibited from crew changes in Chinese ports.

According to ship managers, Japan also has a strict protocol requiring review and approval of crew movements at first Japanese port, which is causing delays.

Other countries such as Brazil reportedly still refuse to disembark non vaccinated crew.

Vaccination rates continue to grow above and beyond national averages, although there are concerns about the duration of existing vaccination immunity, continued risks of new variants and expected rising numbers in coming months.

Most ship managers experienced little resistance towards vaccination among their crew, yet some ship managers also see a certain degree of vaccination fatigue emerging.

Ship managers are still working to vaccinate all unvaccinated crew members, some ship managers now report vaccination rates of 100% among existing crew, while also having unvaccinated seafarers awaiting vaccinations in home countries.

The participating ship managers are Anglo- Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management, OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem Ship Management, and Wilhelmsen Ship Management.

The ship managers collectively have around 100,000 seafarers currently onboard.