More than 1,400 seafarers from the OSV and offshore oil and gas industry have been repatriated by ship manager V.Group since the start of travel and crew change restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 lockdown
V.Group reported it has repatriated 7,315 seafarers from across all marine sectors in the three months since 17 March. With some 2,301 seafarers repatriated, the passenger vessel segment represented over 31.5% of the total. Chemical tankers, bulk carriers, oil tankers, OBO carriers and self-unloaders represented the next largest segment with 2,280 seafarers (31.1%), followed by offshore with 1,416 (19.3% ), container, roro, cargo and vehicle carriers with 872 (11.9%) and LNG and LPG carriers with 237 (3.2%). Some 201 seafarers (2.7%) came from ‘other’ vessels.
While the repatriation of 7,315 seafarers is heartening, it is just a small fraction of the estimated 150,000 to 200,000 seafarers that have been trapped at sea due to the Covid-19 travel ban and crew change restrictions, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The repatriated seafarers comprised 89 nationalities and were moved from 662 vessels, according to V.Group.
With offices in 30 countries, V.Group said although certain countries have made moves to simplify the crew change issue, there is still no global cohesion and many countries simply have not done enough.
V.Group’s global footprint allows the company “to work collaboratively across our network of offices to facilitate repatriations,” said V.Group managing director, crew management group Allan Falkenberg. Mr Falkenberg said V.Group was “working around the clock,” but admitted there was still “a long way to go.” He pointed out, “The reality is thousands of seafarers are still confined to vessels and have been forced to extend their service, putting their health and welfare at risk. Around 100,000 seafarers need to be changed over every month from ships worldwide to comply with safe working hours and crew welfare.”
V.Group is part of a steering group striving for a solution to tackle the crew change crisis. The Crew Change Project steering group comprises: V.Group, Wilhelmsen, Synergy PTC Magsaysay and Inchcape.
The steering group and others continue to call for seafarers to be recognised as international ‘key workers’, exempting them from travel restrictions.
“Crew change remains the number one challenge facing the maritime industry during this crisis and it is essential we find a solution,” said Mr Falkenberg. “The situation is quickly reaching breaking point with seafarers either unable to get home to support their families at an extremely difficult and stressful time or unable to get onto ships and begin working.”
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