The maritime industry is frustrated by the treatment of seafarers who are left stranded on board of their ships as a consequence of the coronavirus. Travel restrictions are hampering crew changes causing logistical difficulties. 

With countries around the globe issuing new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, signing on and off ships is becoming increasingly difficult. Some countries and ports, like China, Singapore, Spain, Panama and Portugal, are denying crew members to set foot ashore if their vessel has called in certain countries in the past few weeks. This is complicating crew changes and as a result, crew members face prolonged stays on board.

CEO Bjorn Hojgaard of ship and crew manager Anglo-Eastern voiced his frustration about this development on Twitter on 16 March, calling the measures unfair and harmful to supply chains.

‘With all the travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, how do airline crew manage? Well, they are exempt… which poses the question: Why are the world’s merchant marine crew not also exempt? Supply chains are vital to the world; we must allow seafarers to sign on/off freely,’ Hojgaard said.

Hojgaard is not alone in his criticism. Shipping agency Seaport Agencies also voiced its concerns about crew changes and added that the new rules also complicate technical ship management services.

To still be able to change crews, some shipping companies divert their vessels to smaller, intermediate ports where crew changes sometimes are still possible.

Overview of port restrictions

The virus has seen severe restrictions put in place on seafarers calling at ports across the Asia Pacific region. Among the countries with restrictions are China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Australia and South Korea.

To help shipping companies and forwarders with their logistical challenges, Norwegian shipping company Wilhelmsen has created a map which shows which ports have restrictions in place.

This article first appeared on Project Cargo Journal, a sister publication of SWZ|Maritime.