NEW Covid-19 testing requirements and restrictions in some countries are creating crew change problems, the Global Maritime Forum has found.

Ship managers participating in GMF’s quarterly Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator reported the easing of Covid restrictions in China is both encouraging and concerning.

According to GMF, while China lifts restrictions, other countries such as Japan and India are introducing new restrictions for seafarers arriving from some other countries in Asia.

While the new restrictions appear to be posing challenges, the latest data from the GMF suggests the crew change situation itself is fairly stable.

The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator for the fourth quarter of 2022 indicates 2.7% of seafarers are still onboard vessels beyond their contract expiration date, which is a 0.6% drop since the third quarter of 2022.

GMF said the number of seafarers unable to disembark is at its lowest since the crew change indicator was introduced in May 2021.

It said the percentage of seafarers on board vessels for more than 11 months fell to 0.2% in the fourth quarter, which is a 0.1% decrease from figures reported in October.

“The numbers trend in the right direction, but the figures still represent thousands of seafarers, who can’t get to work or journey home, as they were supposed to,” GMF project director human sustainability Susanne Justesen said.

“The fundamental issues of seafarers not being treated as key workers also hasn’t changed, which will be a global problem if the pandemic resurges or when we face a similar problem in the future.”

Participating ship managers reported crews are still getting vaccinated, as the number of seafarers vaccinated has risen 2.7% since October, bringing the number of vaccinated seafarers to almost 96%.

Ship managers also reported concerns about the possibility of new variants and current vaccinations not being sufficiently effective.

Some also noted they opt to replace non-vaccinated crew members with vaccinated crew members when possible.

Ship managers providing data to the Global Maritime Forum include Anglo- Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management, OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem Ship Management and Wilhelmsen Ship Management

The companies collectively have about 100,000 seafarers currently on board.