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Crew changes twice as stressful for businesses since Covid-19 pandemic hero image

Crew changes twice as stressful for businesses since Covid-19 pandemic

Research shows the impact of the global pandemic on crew changes in the marine industry

Over 90 per cent of shipping businesses are re-thinking how crew changes are managed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research carried out by specialist travel management company, ATPI Marine & Energy.

Almost half of research respondents (45 per cent) state that crew changes have become at least twice as time consuming and stressful compared to pre-Covid times. 15 per cent of shipping professionals highlight the increased stress and time reaching a four-fold increase.

Signifying a huge shift in how crew travel is planned and delivered, over three quarters (77 per cent) of the shipping business representatives surveyed had made use of specially commissioned repatriation charter flights to enable crew changes to happen in 2020. Crew charter flights were a very rare occurrence before the Covid-19 pandemic saw international borders closed and flights curtailed.

When it comes to planning for the rest of 2021, over a third were considering charter flights – either independently or through industry association collaborations – as part of how they will ensure crew changes can happen.

Jochem Hemink, head of sales shipping Europe and Asia at ATPI Marine & Energy, said:

“This research, conducted among participants at CrewConnect at the end of 2020, highlights just some of the extreme challenges facing those who work in the shipping industry. Crew changes are an essential component of the maritime sector. Ensuring that goods and services continue to move safely around the world is critical during a pandemic when important resources have to be delivered.

“During the height of the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, ATPI Marine & Energy worked hand-in-hand with industry associations to operate charter flights to reduce the number of seafarers stranded at sea for long periods of time, outside contracts. Significant repatriation efforts at a previously unthinkable scale are now part of the day to day fabric of our industry when it comes to ensuring crew can safely join vessels and return home again. For shipping businesses this means changing how crew rotations are planned and tackled, ever increasing costs, and developing new areas of expertise.”

The cost of crew changes is a major challenge for the shipping industry. Almost three-quarters of respondents (73 per cent) have seen crew changes get more expensive since March 2020. Market uncertainty is just one factor driving shipping businesses to plan for greater costs in this area. A quarter (27 per cent) estimate crew changes will cost 10-20 per cent more in 2021 than the previous year, and almost a third (32 per cent) are planning for cost increases to be around the 20-40 per cent mark.

Importantly, shipping organisations are looking at many ways to mitigate some of these crew change cost increases including increasing contract periods, vessel diversion and enhanced forward planning. A massive 55 per cent are working to move crew changes to what are regarded as ‘easy’ ports with fewer Covid-19 restrictions in place, better protocols to allow seafarers to travel, and sufficient connecting flight capacity.

Hemink adds:

“Almost two-thirds of the shipping businesses we talked to are seeing a spiralling mix of increased costs and less time in which to deliver crew changes. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) are having to submit additional reporting on the costs of crewing and travel as businesses look to find efficiencies. We are working with our shipping clients to support these efforts, from delivering greater technology integration to enhanced forward planning to flag challenges that may prevent a successful crew change further ahead. Alongside our industry colleagues, we are also working to push governments worldwide to apply consistent protocols in ports around the world.”

Representatives from over 30 different shipping businesses around the world took part in the research.

ATPI Marine & Energy has 100-years’ heritage in setting new standards in managing the complexities of crew travel. The team is strategically located in the core regions of focus for the marine and energy industries to allow for both sector and important regional expertise, delivering what really matters to its clients. ATPI Marine & Energy is part of the global travel and events business the ATPI Group.