The January crew-change Indicator suggests a further improvement in the situation. However, the full effect of omicron is not reflected in the numbers so further disruptions to crew-changes is expected from the omicron variant.
The latest Indicator shows that the number of seafarers onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract has decreased to 3.7% from 4.7% in the last month, and the number of seafarers onboard vessels for over 11 months has also decreased to 0.4% from 0.7%. These are the lowest numbers recorded by the NDCCI since it was first published in May 2021. The Neptune Indicator also reports another positive trend, with a 10.3 percentage point increase in seafarer vaccination, from 49.5% in December to 59.8% in January, the highest increase so far, as seafarers are increasingly gaining access to vaccines.
Yet seafarer vaccinations still pose numerous challenges and new ones are arising. Vaccine hesitancy is still reported and supply challenges persist in certain geographies. Seafarer travel remains challenging as there are issues with WHO-recognized vaccines not being recognized by all countries and regions. There are also reports that authorities in certain countries have shortened vaccine validity to six months, causing issues with crew-changes of long-term contracts. Finally, access to booster vaccines is already being reported as a new challenge.
Ship managers also noted challenges to crew-changes. Countries, especially in Asia and Europe, are reviewing their protocols and reimposing restrictions on crew changes due to the new omicron variant and high infection rates. Flight cancellations due to the variant are also preventing seafarers from going home. While the data was reported on 15th December, as omicron was rapidly spreading, some of its strongest impacts were felt in the second half of December so the full effects of omicron on crew-changes are not yet fully reported.
“While the January numbers seem encouraging, we must remain cautious as they do not reveal the full impact of omicron as the new infection wave is not yet over. To avoid reigniting the crew-change crisis and reversing these recent positive trends, it is vital that the industry and governments make all efforts to ensure the effect on crew-changes of omicron remain minimal,” says Kasper Søgaard, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Strategy and Development, Global Maritime Forum.
The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator builds on aggregated data from 10 leading ship managers: Anglo- Eastern, Bernhard Schulte, Columbia Shipmanagement, Fleet Management (FLEET), OSM, Synergy Marine, Thome, V.Group, Wallem, and Wilhelmsen Ship Management, which collectively have about 90,000 seafarers currently onboard.
The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator is published once a month and builds on aggregated data provided by the ship managers to the Global Maritime Forum. The data is used to calculate a weighted average of the percentage of seafarers who have been onboard vessels beyond the expiry of their contract of employment, a weighted average of the percentage of seafarers who have been onboard vessels for over 11 months, and a weighted average of the percentage of seafarers who have been vaccinated. As top ship managers are making significant efforts – and are often better placed – in facilitating crew changes, the Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator cannot be used directly to calculate the full numbers of seafarers impacted by the crew change crisis. Likewise, the calculated percentage of seafarers who have been vaccinated is likely to overestimate the actual proportion of vaccinated seafarers.