Undoubtedly, Covid-19 outbreak has a significant impact to Shipping industry and it leads to a slowdown in the marine trade worldwide. The next months will be very critical for the global economy and trade. Shipping industry needs to play its role and rapidly adjust to this new reality by coping with the key challenges arose during the pandemic crisis:
1. Crew Changes and Seafarers’ repatriation
Crew changes, which are essential for the safety, health and welfare of seafarers, subject to huge delays due to countries’ travel restrictions. Extended periods of working on board the vessel can lead to crew fatigue, which is known to be one of the underlying causes of human error. Thus, shipping companies, with the assistance of local port agents, should be aware and updated for all the travel measures and regulations so as to arrange seafarers to be safely and timely on board or to their home countries. Challenge becomes more substantial in case that seafarers need to change many different countries in order to reach their final destinations, as they may be put in quarantine in more than one country. In light of this, crew managers should arrange direct flights for seafarers in order to minimize the possibility of quarantines.
2. Shore leave
In addition to the crew changes, shore leave is another issue that should be considered. Usually after the working hours, seafarers seek their shore leaves, where they relax and visit local areas. In affected from covid-19 countries, this leave may expose seafarers to a huge danger and for that reason is preferable to be prohibited.
3. Covid-19 cases on board
Covid-19 cases on board, seems to be the most significant challenge these days for shipping industry. All Ships should follow an appropriate and actionable plan, which should include relevant training and monitoring to seafarers, so as to practice good hygiene, adequate medical equipment and relevant isolation spaces in order minimize the spread of covid-19 on board. Transferring the seafarers with covid-19 ashore is also difficult as many countries may not accept them.
4. Disruption in the supply of spares
Shipping operations face new challenges, as it is quite difficult for shipping companies to find medical supplies for the crew, as well as mechanical and electronic parts for the vessel. Vessels must remain operational in order to continue safely the cargo transportation. To meet this challenge, managers should consider the vulnerabilities and understand where is the major risks, so as to follow a number of corrective actions. They should ensure the replenishment of the most important provisions, estimate the necessary stock levels and identify the most convenient ports. By keeping continuous communication with all the shipping stakeholders, they will be informed for all the updates and they will minimize the uncertainty of supply chain.
5. Delays in Surveys and Inspections
Undoubtfully, ports, classification societies and flags are facing difficulties to arrange the required vessels’ inspections and surveys which affect both the condition and the certification of the vessels. The inspections are carried out carefully with specific healthy measures from vessels’ and inspectors’ side or by the solution of the technology with remote audits. In these remote audits, the necessary certificates for ship and crew sent by photos, and through video, the inspector estimate the vessel’s condition. In that way, there is less physical presence, there are less possibilities for a covid-19 case on board, and we realize how effective digitalization can be to shipping.
6. Cargo damage and delays
In many ports there are port/ terminal issues which lead to delays and may affect the time schedule of cargo operation. While cargo is stored for a long period of time, there is a risk of large losses from fire or extreme weather events and huge delays in ports, may also result in damages to perishable and temperature - vulnerable goods. Shipping companies should be prepared for these unexpected events and adapt their strategies accordingly. Contact with local agents and port workers play an essential role in keeping trade moving.
In these unprecedented times, shipping companies should be solution-oriented and adaptable to the continuous changes. It is very important for all the shipping cluster to create effective response plans and strategies always aligned with the international regulatory guidelines. What is more, the ship operators and masters have to seek guidance from local authorities and ships’ agents for restrictions and preventive measures that are currently in effect. A coordinated regional response is vital for the continuous smooth operation of global supply chains and safety of vessel and crew.