Ship managers

Top Ship Manager blasts port states for blocking crew change


Image from OIT file

Posted on September 19, 2021 at 7:48 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive







While the shipping industry is paying increasing attention and focus to decarbonization, the crewing crisis is not over and ship operations are still heavily dependent on thousands of dedicated sailors. Their efforts are particularly visible in congested container ports: On Sunday, 71 container ships were waiting to dock at busy terminals in Long Beach and Los Angeles, with 71 crew tending to their engines and gear.


In a recent LinkedIn post, Anglo-Eastern Univan Group CEO Bjorn Hojgaard lamented what he described as “shameful” treatment of crew members by port states.


“The way we are treating seafarers in 2021 is absolutely shameful. Since the onset of the pandemic, crew services around the world have struggled to facilitate crew switching against increasingly difficult odds. Seafarers at home are often unable to secure a contract, possibly because they live in a country with a high COVID burden. And the seafarers on board are increasingly being treated as pariahs, despite the fact that they have kept the global supply chain we call shipping functioning throughout the pandemic – for the immense benefit people and nations around the world,” Hojgaard said.


“It is not the shipowners and ship managers who are difficult. They are doing everything in their power to execute the crew change in an ever-changing but increasingly impossible environment,” he added. “The real culprits here are the ports and the nations who decide that, yes, they want the ships and their cargo, but no, they don’t allow crew changes. Not on my doorstep! You can do it elsewhere, thank you so much !


While the COVID pandemic has exacerbated the dire experiences of seafarers, it has also exposed long-standing systemic issues regarding seafarer welfare. Mission to Seafarers’ latest Seafarers Happiness Index report paints a heartbreaking picture: the report recounts a comment by a sailor saying: “This is not a profession for first-year students. Another said: “We have broken sleep, broken systems and people feel broken too.”


Crucially, the report finds seafarer happiness levels fell in the second quarter to 5.99/10 from 6.46 in the first quarter. (Results are obtained from an average score on 10 questions in a survey.)


Meanwhile, a new research paper by Peter Vandergeest in the journal Marine Policy reveals an even grimmer experience for seafarers in the fishing industry. “The basis for longer-term marginalization includes the exclusion of fishing from the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), the marginal status of fishing among the global organizations concerned with seafarers, the dispersed ownership of vessels of fishing in relation to concentrated corporate ownership in shipping, lack of unionization, and frequent inaccessibility of consular assistance in fishing ports,” concluded Vandergeest and co-authors.


Essentially, seafarers in deep-sea fisheries are marginalized compared to seafarers in other sectors in a long-term and systemic way. Unless efforts to improve working conditions on fishing vessels address the MLC exclusion, seafarers in the fishing industry will still face considerable hardship, even after the pandemic is over. of COVID-19, the authors concluded.