Source: Bjørn Højgaard, CEO of Anglo-Eastern Univan Group - In shipping circles these days, it seems that all the talk is about decarbonisation. It's the topic-du-jour, and whereas I am as passionate as anyone about our industry's transition to a low-carbon future, I wonder why we as an industry have seemingly so little emotionally vested in the ongoing crewing crisis?
Two years ago, seafarers were sent to a ship to relieve a colleague in a matter of days. A pre-medical examination, a few documents to sort out, a plane ticket and off you go! For seafarers onboard, life was predictable, if not ordinary. You knew when you would get off the ship (close to the end of your contract), you enjoyed the occasional shore leave, and if you were lucky you'd even have your family sail with you from time to time. Most importantly, if you got injured or sick onboard, you knew that you could be medivac'ed off the ship anywhere in the world (as long as close enough to shore) to receive proper attention and treatment.
The way we treat seafarers in 2021 is absolutely shameful. Since the pandemic started, crewing departments the world over have scrambled to facilitate crew change against increasingly difficult odds. Seafarers at home are often unable to get a contract, perhaps because they live in a country with a high Covid load. And seafarers onboard are increasingly being treated as pariahs, despite the fact that they have kept the global supply chain we call shipping functioning throughout the pandemic - to the immense benefit to people and nations everywhere.
Think about it: Today we often ask even fully vaccinated seafarers to quarantine for a total of 14-21 days before and after their flight to the port of embarkation, and once they do get on the ship, they are asked to self-isolate for another 14 days, to minimise the risk of bringing Covid onboard. When they do get into their job, they do so without family-sailing, oftentimes without shore-leave, having to guess if their contract duration will be honoured, and in the chilling knowledge that should they get injured on the job, many nations refuse to take them ashore to treat them! How is that even possible?