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The Lloyd’s List podcast: Is shipping about to be hit by a global crew shortage?

Listen to the latest edition of the Lloyd’s List’s weekly podcast — your free weekly briefing on the stories shaping shipping

The crewing crisis never went away, the industry just worked around the problems, but with India now engulfed with a new coronavirus strain, Myanmar seafarers locked out due to sanctions at home and existing logjams getting worse, there is a very real possibility that shipping has a global crew shortage coming in the post. Joining the podcast this week to discuss the current crew changeover constraints and looming disaster scenarios is the International Chamber of Shipping secretary general, Guy Platten

SHIPPING is grappling with the latest wave of a problem that was never resolved, simply worked around.

Crew changeovers vital for maintaining global seaborne trade are being left paralysed by a new wave of coronavirus restrictions, with most of the world’s seafarers unable to leave vessels once contracts expire, or sign on to start their jobs.

The situation is complex and changing daily, but the simple truth is that it is currently a hopeless pursuit trying to change crew almost anywhere in the world.

If it’s not a lack of visas, it’s no flights. If there are flights, they’re not to the right destinations. There are stipulations for vaccines, but limitations on which ones are accepted in which country and no solution as to how we give seafarers at sea vaccinations.

Shipmanagers are trying all the workarounds, but this week they have reached stalemate and crew logistics has almost come to a halt.

A crew-nationality arbitrage has also emerged, with preference being given to seafarers who are easier to relocate, such as the Chinese, to the detriment of Indian and other southeast Asian countries.

Worryingly, we are also seeing numerous coronavirus infections on board vessels as new strains defy testing protocols and are harder to detect via a seven-to-14-day offshore quarantines.

By all accounts trade is currently still moving, albeit with crew wearing hazmat suits anywhere near India — but we’re already hearing of some owners pulling vessels from calling at Indian ports and vessels are effectively considered quarantined as a result.

And it’s not just trade disruptions that are on the cards — with Indian crew now facing huge uncertainty and crew from Myanmar constrained by mounting political tension and sanctions, the possibility of an international crew shortage within months is a very real possibility.

Joining Lloyd’s List editor Richard Meade on the podcast this week to discuss these latest trends and what it means for shipping is a podcast regular, the secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, Guy Platten.

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