CREW CHANGES REMAIN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly affect the global population in ways never experienced before, it is seafarers who have ensured vital global trade continues, with many having to work well beyond their tour of duty.
With entire populations quarantined and borders effectively closed (at time of writing in mid-May), crew changes remain extremely difficult to execute.
Unable to disembark into closed nations, significant numbers of sea-farers onboard Northern Marine managed vessels have had to extend their time onboard by weeks and months.
Recently, some European countries have begun permitting crew changes, however drastically reduced airline capacity and repatriation restrictions at the seafarers’ home nations, have created further insurmountable barriers.
Shore based Crewing and Travel Management teams have completed a small number of crew changes when possible, however the seafarers’ health and safety is the priority with strict control measures in place to prevent potential spread of infection or exposure to an unacceptable level of risk.
Frustration is also extended to relief seafarers at home who are ready and motivated to begin their vessel assignments and allow their colleagues to come home.
Philip Fullerton, Managing Director, Northern Marine Group, said: “In the Company’s almost 40-year history, we have never faced a logistical challenge as significant as this.
“Our absolute focus is finding ways to return home our colleagues at sea who are working beyond their tour of duty.
“We have lobbied hard with authorities to designate seafarers as ‘key workers’ therefore making them eligible for disembarkation, however even if we get our colleagues off the vessels, further onshore restrictions have created more obstacles. Their safety must be the priority.
“Myself and many of the senior management team at Northern Marine have had careers at sea and we understand what it is like to be away from your families and loved ones for long durations of time; however what some of our seafarers are experiencing today is considerably more difficult.
“They have demonstrated silent professionalism and dedication throughout this challenging period, which is commended by all of us.”
As a seafarer of 30 years’ experience, having led crews on many Stena vessels, Captain Sadananda Deshpande rates the current challenge as exceptional.
He said: “The most important aspect of my role currently is to keep the crew as happy as I can, keep them motivated without having to worry them too much.
“I believe keeping people informed is the best way to tackle any situation. Here I do not have to do much because all the information is already available from the Company or on the internet.
“The only thing I am trying to ensure, or trying to take care of, is making sure people stay focused onboard and keep themselves safe.
“In the current situation people must be mentally tough and most seafarers are tough. You join a vessel for a certain length of time – we understand that – but I’ve always left home telling my family I will come back when I come back. I commit to doing what is required.
“We’ll get through this together. I am very proud of what we as sea-farers are doing to help society.”
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