Lloyd's List is part of Maritime Intelligence

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Maritime Insights & Intelligence Limited, registered in England and Wales with company number 13831625 and address c/o Hackwood Secretaries Limited, One Silk Street, London EC2Y 8HQ, United Kingdom. Lloyd’s List Intelligence is a trading name of Maritime Insights & Intelligence Limited. Lloyd’s is the registered trademark of the Society Incorporated by the Lloyd’s Act 1871 by the name of Lloyd’s.

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use. For high-quality copies or electronic reprints for distribution to colleagues or customers, please call UK support at +44 (0)20 3377 3996 / APAC support at +65 6508 2430

Printed By


Is shipping to blame for the crew crisis?

Public opinion must be mobilised if stranded seafarers are to get home soon

Shipowners who shun publicity and choose to flag vessels in countries with which they have few or no commercial connections, should not be surprised if governments fail to take up their cause. Without pressure from their constituents, politicians are likely to push the stranded seafarers emergency far down the agenda

PUBLIC opinion is probably the most powerful weapon at the disposal of the shipping industry as it struggles to resolve the crewing crisis and help the 300,000 seafarers caught up in a combination of bureaucracy and disinterest that has left them stranded at sea.

Politicians in the countries with the power and influence to unblock the logjam would certainly take more notice if their constituents, or the popular press, started to protest about the treatment of these “key workers”.

Yet apart from a few articles about those stuck on cruiseships, there has been only occasional media coverage of this scandal, and certainly little understanding about the scale of the problem.

But is the shipping industry itself partly to blame for the situation in which it finds itself?

The general public probably would be much more sympathetic if they could relate to those on board in some way.

If, say, the crew of dozens of British or US vessels were banned from going ashore, there is likely to be a far greater outcry in those respective countries than if the ships concerned were registered in, for example, Liberia, Panama, or any other flag state that seems remote and irrelevant to many who would readily speak up if they understood the facts

Many shipowners choose to register their vessels in jurisdictions with which they have little commercial connection. Rightly or wrongly, they are then perceived as doing that to avoid paying taxes in their home countries.

Yet the one fact that is most easy to obtain about a ship is its flag state, not the identity of its owner. So why would governments, politicians or their voters care about the plight of the crew of a ship that is registered in a country that they may never have heard of?

Usually, the shipping industry is quite content to remain below the radar. But right now, it needs to help the hundreds of thousands of men and women who are either unable to disembark, or who need to replace those whose contracts have expired, and through no fault of their own are caught up in this nightmare.

The big flag states certainly need to be far more vocal about this humanitarian emergency. But shipowners, too, should think about their choice of register, and whether, in the longer term, they would be better off flagging tonnage in their home countries, or one with the means to mobilise public opinion when it matters. And right now, it does.

Shipping is suffering the consequences of its own way of doing business, where a ship is effectively stateless because of its ownership, registration, and trading structure, leaving those who could make a difference wondering why they should care.

Related Content





Ask The Analyst

Please Note: You can also Click below Link for Ask the Analyst
Ask The Analyst

Your question has been successfully sent to the email address below and we will get back as soon as possible. my@email.address.

All fields are required.

Please make sure all fields are completed.

Please make sure you have filled out all fields

Please make sure you have filled out all fields

Please enter a valid e-mail address

Please enter a valid Phone Number

Ask your question to our analysts