Coronavirus travel ban impacting crewing patterns, consultancy says

Eastern European crew. Credit: InterManager

Chinese crew are being passed over in ship manning decisions in favour of Eastern Europeans, eating into an already diminishing labour pool, crewing specialist Danica reported, citing coronavirus (COVID-19).

The contracting pool of available seafarers is forcing the company to have to step in more often to handle crewing shortages, managing director Henrik Jensen said. “We are getting requests for help from shipping companies which would normally employ seafarers of Chinese nationality because crew members are not able to join the vessels due to the travel bans,” Jensen indicated. “Fortunately, we have so far been able to cover these requests as the increased demand is relatively small compared to the large number of Eastern European crew available in the countries we cover. As a result, this shortage is not currently impacting salary levels.”

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), or the coronavirus for short, originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province. It is most commonly thought to have originated from bats, transferring to humans at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Of 75,756 confirmed cases, some 2,129 deaths have been recorded at time of writing, 11 of them outside mainland China. Those with pre-existing cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, as well as diabetics, are particularly vulnerable.

“All our seafarers joining these vessels are informed about the precautions to be taken and we have not yet experienced any reluctance from Eastern European seafarers to join vessels,” Jensen continued. “However, we do see some disturbances in the flow of crew changes of all nationalities due to vessels being idle off the Chinese coast or in countries where travel restrictions prevent seafarers from joining or leaving vessels. We are monitoring this fast-changing situation daily and keeping all our owners, vessels, and crew up to date with the latest situation.”

A large number of vessel surveys and retrofits due to take place in Chinese shipyards have been called off in response to the outbreak. Earlier today, two elderly Japanese passengers had reportedly died on the cruise vessel Diamond Princess, currently quarantined at Yokohama. The vessel was carrying 3,700 passengers; however, hundreds of passengers who tested negative for the virus began to disembark the ship yesterday.

The World Health Organization has criticised a mass of misinformation on the virus – such as attributing its spread to consumption of bat soup – describing it as an “infodemic”. Speaking at Silicon Valley last week, digital business solutions manager Andrew Pattison said that tech companies needed to play a role in fighting false information, which he said was “spreading faster than the virus”.