Chinese crew during Covid-19 have seen their wages leap, surpassing the monthly pay of key rival seafarer nations such as the Philippines, India and across eastern Europe.
The difficulties of getting foreign crews into the People’s Republic, one of the largest shipyard nations in the world, has forced owners to hire Chinese crews for newbuilds leaving or drydocking, resulting in the spike of Chinese crew wages.
Chinese ratings have seen their salaries increase by around $500 per month – or 33% – this year so far, according to a number of sources contacted by Splash. Chinese officer wages, meanwhile,. have leapt more than 10% to come on a par with Filipino levels.
China and the Philippines are the top two sources for seafarers in the world, albeit that the former is mainly concentrated serving the Chinese fleet.
Kishore Rajvanshy, managing director of Fleet Management, told Splash that seafarers onboard are eager to get back home, however, many of their colleagues on leave – whether they are in China, the Philippines, India or eastern Europe – have decided not to go back sailing until next year or until such time that the pandemic is over.
“There is a supply side shock that is pushing up crew wages. The Chinese crew pool has been affected the most because, for the last six to seven months, all newbuilding deliveries in China have to be manned by Chinese crew only,” Rajvanshy said.
Carl Schou, president and CEO of Wilhelmsen Ship Management, said that given current travel restrictions and China’s yard supremacy, the subsequent rise in Chinese crew wages was inevitable.
“Most newbuildings are built in China – and when ships are delivered they need to be crewed. A practical solution is to use Chinese crew as takeover crew–avoiding the need to send other nationalities crew for several weeks in advance to quarantine,” Schou explained, adding that the same principle applies with docking and repairs.
Chinese takeover crew sail for a short period of time until the vessel calls at an ideal port to perform crew change where the intended crew can go onboard to take over.
Frank Coles, CEO of Wallem Group, echoed his shipmanagement peers, telling Splash: “The difficulty of getting foreign crews into China has meant that owners cannot put their normal crews onto newbuilds. This is turn has meant that the owners are seeking to put Chinese crews onboard. This is driving up demand and hence the wages are climbing. It is also being driven by some seafarers not wanting to return to sea, and making higher wage demands.”
Earlier this month, China opened up 10 ports for foreign crew changes as the country eases entry restrictions for foreign nationals.