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Spotlight on the 40% of seafarers trapped by crewing crisis

The disruption and cost to shipping is rising daily, but there are still nowhere near enough measures being taken to co-ordinate the quick movement of seafarers

Despite summits, pledges and pleadings, the plight of depressed, anxious and exhausted seafarers remains as crew-change locations remain in short supply

THE coronavirus pandemic has left as many as 300,000 seafarers with expired contracts stranded at sea, presenting shipowners and shipmanagers with their largest ever humanitarian and logistical crisis facing the maritime sector.

Another 300,000 seafarers are unemployed and unable to join their ship with the disruption now affecting the lives and livelihood of nearly 40% of the world’s 1.5m crew.

With borders closed, airlines grounded and inconsistent, ever-changing quarantine and immigration restrictions and testing regimes, only about a quarter of crew changeovers have occurred since March.

Despite summits, pledges, pleadings and protocols at the highest level, the plight of depressed, anxious and exhausted seafarers remains one of the most distressing of all the pandemic tragedies for its sheer scale, longevity and invisibility.

The disruption and cost to shipping is rising daily.


Michael Phoon

“The crux of the matter is the airlines… they are the other missing link in the entire value chain we’re looking for. The ball is no longer in our court. The specific oversight to manage airlines is not our job, they’re not going to listen to us. International Air Transport Association has to step up and support them.”

Singapore Shipping Association executive director Michael Phoon

Read more: ‘Illogical’ airline inaction blocks crew repatriation


Allan Falkenberg  

“Even though we have teams still in many locations, we work across all time zones. With ships sitting on the other side of the planet, it takes five times longer to arrange a crew change than under normal conditions.”

Allan Falkenberg Group Managing Director, Crew Management, V.Ships

Read more: From logistical puzzle to conundrum — the V.Ships view of the crew crisis


Rajesh Unni

“If you are a doctor or somebody in the healthcare workforce, they are allowed to go from their home to their place of work and back in an uninterrupted manner and that’s the right thing to do. It’s a call of duty. We must create safe corridors for them too.”

Rajesh Unni, chief executive Synergy Marine

Read more: US joins UK in leading global crew change


Capt Kuba Syzmanski


“There is a lot of bullshit going on. These two countries (Singapore and United Arab Emirates) are always trying to portray themselves as the biggest strength in the shipping industry, always saying to come and work with us. But when it came to testing times, they turned their backs on us. Big time. I hope the industry will remember that.”

Capt Kuba Syzmanski, InterManager 

Read more: Less than a third of seafarers repatriated

Kitack Lim


“It’s an unprecedented situation. It’s like a war.”

International Maritime Organisation Secretary General Kitack Lim




Send us your stories

Of the 15 governments who attended a virtual summit organised by the UK government, 13 pledged to give seafarers key worker status and allow exemptions to ease their passage through immigration borders to help resolve the crisis.

Meanwhile, ship agency Inchcape keeps an updated account of what is, and isn’t, happening at ports and borders around the world.

Tell us your stories. Help Lloyd’s List give a face and voice to the humanitarian crisis at sea. Seafarers, shipmanagers, crewing agencies, shipping charities, please use your phone to record a 30-second vignette of your own experience.

We will include your first-hand accounts in our crew coverage to make sure the decision-makers who read our stories and frame the debate see the faces and experiences behind their actions.

We are also bringing down the paywall on all our crew coverage to make sure that your voices are heard by the widest possible audience. You can access our crews in crisis page here.

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