Online platform developed to ease crew changes amid COVID-19

Shipowners need accurate flight availability to carry out crew changes. Credit: Getty Images

An online platform that plots vessels voyage plans and provides accurate flight availability for crew has been developed by security company, Greywing based in Singapore.

The platform was developed to aid ship managers and owners to find solutions to get crew off vessels and back home amid COVID-19 port restrictions. The solution also takes into consideration on-signers waiting at home that need to get work on board vessels. It optimises both flight availability from the on-signers home airport as well as flight options at each of the vessels available upcoming port calls for the off-signers.

Ship managers input a voyage plan, as well as where a crew change needs to occur, the platform will then come up with the most efficient port, in terms of cost and port restrictions, for this to take place. The platform also creates a buffer of 24hours for outbound and inbound flights to allow for delays, be that due to vessel or crew travel restrictions.

Greywing is also integrating its software with client crew management software, including Compas Cloud, to simplify data entry.

“Crew Managers are out of options. They’re getting daily calls and emails from both on-signers and off-signers and their families pushing for a crew change and in addition they spend most of their days searching for crew change options which don’t work out; most of the time,” said Nick Clarke, CEO Greywing.

Currently, the data regarding port and government restrictions are input directly via news and other official sources. Greywing believe this tool will still be useful post COVID-19 to ensure smooth crew changes when there are last minute changes to voyage schedules, which can lead to high flight prices.

Greywing are looking to add other variables to the platform, such as crew nationality, to further streamline the crew change over process.

The shipping industry has been appealing, since the outbreak of COVID-19, to governments and other international bodies to uniformly declare seafarers as key workers and to exempt them from COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Crew changes have been carried out at ports in Asia and other country’s ports are slowly opening up, as can be seen in InterManager’s ‘Champion’s League’ table of successful crew changes. This, however, remains an ever-changing situation.

“The crew are the victims of circumstance here, and we see their shore-based staff pulling out all the steps to help them.  It’s humbling to be working on the edges of a global problem that comes down to people trying to support their families, at home or at sea,” Clarke told SAS.

This platform is part of a wider suite of solutions, including a risk assessment tool called Landfall to assess COVID-19 threat level of vessels to facilitate crew movement at ports.