Crew change blah blah

The UK crew change summit has yielded nothing to fix the seafarer repatriation issue, warns an irate Frank Coles from the Wallem Group.

Last week there was a government conference and 13 countries, and a few associations got together and did what they always do; issued a statement. No plan, no strategy, no timeline or milestones, just a statement without accountability or responsibility. It is four months too late and less than useless in content. No presence by India, Russia and China… that’s well over 50% of seafarers, so it was a waste of time. We have to get these countries engaged in this process.

At least one of those on the call, UAE, is not open for crew changes as I write this. There are flights but no visas. In Europe (a large number of the countries) they want the ‘key workers’ to have a Schengen visa (try getting one today). The less than frequent flights are oversold. Then you have Gibraltar and others who will not recognise a Marshall Islands discharge book and, there are no flights. Try explaining all this to the overdue crew.

It is despicable how the politicians are using this for their own gain. These are the same people who supported the mercy flights for holidaymakers but just issue statements for crew. It is disappointing how Maersk is suddenly talking about the crew welfare when they ignored it in April. Owners are desperate to keep the ships running safely but are thwarted almost daily.

It is despicable how the politicians are using this for their own gain. These are the same people who supported the mercy flights for holidaymakers but just issue statements for crew

Maintaining healthy crew relates to ship safety, it relates to human rights, it relates to mental wellness. I suspect the risk assessors have just decided we haven’t had a major incident so let’s keep pushing the envelope. Changing crews is a requirement for matrix compliant ships and for well-maintained ships. Changing crews is a long-term logistics exercise, it is not about the current overdue crew, but about the whole process over the next 6/9/15 months, it is all impacted. How did Maersk not see this in April? They, like many others, thought it would blow over?

So, the statement issued is useless. It is useless because nothing is going to change. Until maritime changes the way it makes decisions, nothing will change. While we keep doing the same thing over and over again, nothing will change. So, while we rely on statements from IMO, and government and ICS and the like, we deserve the result we get. But it has to change.

Oil majors and the big commodity charterers and others should be supporting the requirement to deviate where necessary for crew changes. There should be a shared responsibility to solve this crisis, both morally and financially.

Maritime ‘key workers’ should bypass the visa restrictions, a discharge book should be accepted by all, special seafarers’ flights should be made available in key places to key ports. We need a global logistics operation that should be executed by key governments to preserve world trade, human rights and mental welfare.


  1. Excellent article, as an industry we should be much tougher, if the port not allows crew changes, then, the ship should not be allowed by flag state / class / next PoC to call.

    Only then, when the country’s see the empty shells changes will happen.

    1. Well said.. the PSC should detain the ships all over the world.. then only it would be possible.. but the PSC is also a government organisation..

  2. I agree with all that is written on the subject of crew changes. It’s so sad that so many nations, despite being coastal states, don’t recognize matters maritime when it comes to either the personnel involved or the people indirectly involved such as stowaways. It’s many years since the IMO FAL (assistances to shipowners in respect of stowaways) was accepted by IMO signature States yet shipowners find that so many countries still don’t permit the disembarkation and repatriation of stowaways. Taking this as an example as to how quickly matters like this move ahead or in this case stagnate then issues of crew changes is unlikely to be addressed any time soon. It’s very sad when one considers so much of world trade is carried on ships and although autonomous ships are in the pipeline that pipeline is equally very long and fruition of the project is a long way off.

  3. Greatest joke is these fools play test match ( without spectators) when the whole world is suffering. Crew change is utmost important and closing your eyes without any proactive steps to solve the crisis is disgusting

  4. Firstly states need to consult reliable shipmanagers, but most of shipmanagers resign themselves to the role of lackeys of charterers and banks, and nothing will be done.

  5. There should be some more strict measures. Also, biggest crew origin nations should be under bigger pressure and sanctions. As far as I know, India is doing absolutely nothing for their seafarers, except what has been done by companies themselves.

  6. Those countries opposing crew change then dont allow any vessel to enter in those countries/stop everything to that countries.Then see waht happen to that country.

  7. I have recently done my crew change with the help from the india embassy and it went pretty well. Crew should be allow to go back while business as usual. Those country that disallow crew change should not allow the ship to drop anchor there. Cant be asking only for the service provided by the farers but oppose in return not allowing them to get change.

  8. It is not safe to sail in these conditions.
    Masters must use their overriding authority and forced the crew change, the ships must be deviated to a Crew Change friendly Port.
    I can write this from home because I did it.

  9. UAE have issued guidelines but dragging their feet you have to jump through hoops to even get a crew change.


    These crews just want to get home to their families some have not seen for so long.

    You can go on holiday without all the messing this is an absolute joke.

  10. Very good article. You hit the nail right on the head. But what preventsed the three major seafarers supply countries; Russia,India a and China from participating in the conference.
    Political gimmicks as usual, when they aware a lot of their seafarers are caught in this unfortunate situation.

  11. I am a worried family of a seafarer. I’ve been asking help from itf since mid June about my nephew’s urgent need for medical help suffering for stomach pain since 5th May. Itf managed to email the crewing company but the company doesn’t do anything to have him seen by a doctor. They’ve been to 7 ports, last was Singapore 10th of July and now they are heading to Reunion then Angola but still the crewing company said not posible due to Schegen visa requirement when repatriated home. There are 1 sick crew and 4 who need crew change but nothing been done.

  12. I crew changed in dubai on the 10th July. Covid t3st at airport. Go to hotel for a night to wait results and swapped out. Really easy so they are allowing crew changes

    1. Andrey , give me please agent details. Because really crew change not is allowed in Dubai this is latest information from agent. Agent always speaking about lag on E-portal. Alredy more than 10 days(((

  13. The Owner’s are unwilling to share their financial loss to divert the ship.
    My ship is here at Anchorage in China for past 1 month, which could have been easily diverted to Hong Kong for crew Change, prior arriving China. All pleading just went in vain. The Financial loss for 20 hours deviation was too much for the Owner’s but they would happily wait
    One month at Anchorage earning Demurrage. With such Sick People, do we need a Virus to make us Sick?..Such a Society is already Sick.

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