Improvement in crew change crisis but Omicron raises fears, says Neptune Crew Change Indicator

The latest Indicator shows that the number of seafarers onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract has decreased to 3.7% from 4.7% in the last month, and the number of seafarers onboard vessels for over 11 months has also decreased to 0.4% from 0.7%. These are the lowest numbers recorded by the Indicator since it was first published in May 2021. 

The Neptune Indicator also reports another positive trend, with a 10.3 percentage point increase in seafarer vaccinations, from 49.5% in December to 59.8% in January, the highest increase so far, as seafarers are increasingly gaining access to vaccines.

Yet seafarer vaccinations still pose numerous challenges and new ones are arising. Vaccine hesitancy is still reported and supply challenges persist in certain geographies. Seafarer travel remains challenging as there are issues with WHO-recognized vaccines not being recognized by all countries and regions. 

There are also reports that authorities in certain countries have shortened vaccine validity to six months, causing issues with crew-changes of long-term contracts. Finally, access to booster vaccines is already being reported as a new challenge.

Omicron 

Ship managers also noted challenges to crew-changes. Countries, especially in Asia and Europe, are reviewing their protocols and reimposing restrictions on crew changes due to the new omicron variant and high infection rates. 

Flight cancellations due to the variant are also preventing seafarers from going home. While the data was reported on 15th December, as omicron was rapidly spreading, some of its strongest impacts were felt in the second half of December so the full effects of omicron on crew-changes are not yet fully reported.

“While the January numbers seem encouraging, we must remain cautious as they do not reveal the full impact of omicron as the new infection wave is not yet over. To avoid reigniting the crew-change crisis and reversing these recent positive trends, it is vital that the industry and governments make all efforts to ensure the effect on crew- changes of omicron remain minimal,” says Kasper Søgaard, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Strategy and Development, Global Maritime Forum.

The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator builds on aggregated data from 10 leading ship managers: Anglo- Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management (FLEET), OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem, and Wilhelmsen Ship Management, which collectively have about 90,000 seafarers currently onboard.

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