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InterManager boss singles out Singapore, Qatar and Dubai for their poor handling of crew changes

Confusion and obfuscation reign in the public relations battle for the hearts and minds of seafarers, many of whom are now contemplating going on strike.

Shipmanagers are rushing daily to show how many crew they’ve moved around the globe on chartered planes, while shipowners are virtue signalling their indignance at politicians who in turn are claiming all manner of crew movement achievements during the coronavirus travel restrictions.

In a startling intervention, however, the secretary-general of InterManager, the association for third-party shipmanagers, has hit out at how poorly some of the world’s top shipping hubs have handled crew changes to date.

In a video posted on social media, Captain Kuba Szymanski said: “Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Qatar – stop being selfish, you would like our services but it cannot be a one-way street. Please we need to cooperate, we need to work. You promised, Singapore and United Arab Emirates would be the capitals of shipping, well keep to your promises please, we have to work together, we have to get seafarers home.”

Explaining his anger to Splash today, Szymanski said that politicians and officials in Singapore and Dubai in particular had been doing a lot of talking, but little concrete action to get crews repatriated.

“Singapore and Dubai have always been saying we’re the best hubs in the world, we’ll do anything for you but when the difficult times hit they have proven to be lacking,” Szymanski said. He went on to praise other cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, Aberdeen and Amsterdam where crew travel has been possible during the pandemic.

“Your true friends show their true colours in trying times,” Szymanski said.

Singapore via its local port authority, in the PR battle to claim it is working to get crew moved around the world, issued a release last Friday claiming it had approved more than 4,000 cases of crew change to-date during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a major port state, Singapore has a responsibility to facilitate crew change in a safe manner for both the country and the ships, given the ongoing pandemic,” Quah Ley Hoon, MPA’s chief executive, said in the release, adding: “MPA will continue to work with the industry and unions on creative solutions, one of which is a floating holding facility for crew.”

However, Singapore’s bureaucratic stance on the issue has been attacked by many in recent weeks.

“Singapore has made port changes difficult because crew have to go straight to airport and they need 14-day prior requests. It’s a flip-flop, it’s a mess,” one senior shipmanagement source told Splash today on condition of anonymity.

Shipping’s trade unions have given the green light for seafarers to go on strike in the last 24 hours as the world failed to resolve the crew change issue.

Francesco Gargiulo, the CEO of the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), warned yesterday: “We have been reassured that employers that have been trying in good faith will not be targeted however, the unions will no longer be able to support our members in telling seafarers to stay put if their extended contract comes to an end after today.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Capt. Kuba thanks for your strong words that describe the actual situation. From the media reports their seems to be a disconnect from the reality of whats happening. Disgraceful situation on the treatment of ship’s crews…treated as if pieces of machinery instead of human beings. If not for the shipmanagement companies to champion the welfare of seafarers the end result would be a human disaster. Unfortunately only those of us who have been to sea truly understand the plight of these seafaring men and woman. How many more shipboard suicides before there is outrage? How many more injuries caused by fatigue and losing hope? It is now the time for Seafarers Lives Matter…too.

  2. The organization of the return of the crew members to home rests on shipmanager shoulders. This usually include repatriation from dificult ports and shipmanagers charge millions of dollars to customers every year for this. This is the main task of a shipmanager!! COMPLY YOUR DUTY!!

    1. They are, as seen from the article as well as the efforts of those trying to enact crew changes. However, only few are actively trying to push for regulatory changes, most are passively waiting for updates from the governments, blaming them solely for the lack of crew changes.

  3. Dubai is not doing their part for the wellness of the seafarers. We are stuck here in jebel ali wanting to go home but still no news about the flights.

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