KLM has responded to the request of the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR) to set up air bridges. These will allow seafarers to be flown in again to relieve their colleagues, who have been on board ships for months now due to the corona pandemic.

Worldwide, more than 150,000 seafarers have been waiting for months for relief. For the Dutch shipowners, this concerns about 12,000 seafarers. Maritime transport is regarded as the logistics backbone of world trade, and no less than ninety per cent of all goods are transported by sea. In order for seagoing vessels to sail safely, it is essential that seafarers travel to and from seagoing vessels.

‘The corona pandemic has led to severe travel restrictions, which also vary from country to country. Cancelled flights came on top of that. This made it virtually impossible for seafarers to travel home from ocean-going vessels in a short space of time, and vice versa,’ says KVNR Director Annet Koster. ‘We are very grateful to KLM for having embraced this initiative and for the fact that the air bridges are now a reality. This brings peace of mind to seafarers, their families and shipowners.’

Planned flights

KLM is now going to implement the plan, drawn up jointly with the KVNR and Boers Crew Services, to restart crew redeployment. The (Dutch) shipowners have the greatest need for airlifts between Amsterdam, which is close to many major seaports in Northwest Europe, and the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia and Poland, the countries of residence of most seafarers.

KLM is already flying between Amsterdam and Warsaw, and KLM is in consultation with Russian and Ukrainian governments and aviation authorities to obtain permission to fly to Kiev and St. Petersburg. As of 26 May, KLM will fly four times a week between Amsterdam and Manila with Bangkok as a stopover.

‘The strategic location of our hub at Schiphol in combination with the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam made KLM a major global carrier of seafarers for a long time,’ adds Harm Kreulen, Director KLM Netherlands. ‘Many of the clients united under the KVNR are KLM’s major corporate clients and business relations. It is good that, especially in these times, we are able to show our loyalty to this segment with these “air bridges”. The initiative also fits in perfectly with the further start-up of our network.’

Picture by KLM.