Covid-19 is pushing up costs for crew change by an average of $2,000

A crewing business has warned ship operators that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased dramatically the average cost of a crew change.

Henrik Jensen, Managing Director of Danica Crewing Specialists, said that each crew change was costing an extra $2,000 – $4,000 instead of $2,000 – since last year. Danica is advising ship operators to set aside additional funds to allocate to the costs of crew change in next year’s budgets.

Jensen said that “air fares have risen significantly compared to 12 months ago and flights are still difficult to book in many parts of the world due to reduced timetables and last-minute changes or cancellations. Our analysis does not include vessel deviation and delay costs for redirecting vessels to ports where crew changes are allowed and lost charter revenue. However, vessel deviations caused only for the purpose of crew changes are rare today as more ports are open for crew changes.”

Jensen warned that Danica had examined the additional costs caused by Covid-19 restrictions and the requirements in relation to crew changes and had found that, on average, it now cost almost $2,000 per crew movement. For one person joining and one returning home the cost was averaging a total of approximately $4,000.

Danica arrived at the figure at using analysis of a combination of fully allocated additional costs and estimates, based on the 1,276 crew changes on bulk carriers in worldwide trade which Danica made over the period March to September 2020.

Jensen said that “for the first half of the year in general our costs stayed within budgets because the higher charges per crew change were balanced out by the reduced frequency of crew changes”.

However, over the summer months Danica was able to resume crew changes as much as possible, partly because of the designation of seafarers as ‘essential workers’. A high percentage of crew had been relieved. However, crew changes had “gone from being a straightforward shipping activity to becoming a seriously complicated challenge”.

Jensen noted that there were “an ever-changing list of restrictions, medical tests, hotels, visas and transit requirements to be met in order to facilitate crew travel. Today planning and executing a crew change can take two to three times as long as before.”

He doubted that crew scheduling would return to normal before mid-2021 at the earliest. “Due to Covid-19 and delays in repatriating seafarers the entire crew planning system is destroyed and crew rotation patterns are all over the place. It will take a lot of time and effort by crew managers and ship owners, and need the assistance of the international community and governments, for the regular crew change system to be re-established”, Jensen said.

Jensen concluded that this was “an industry-wide problem faced by all ship operators throughout the world. It is of course very difficult to forecast every additional cost which will be faced in 2021 but it would be prudent to assume that this global situation will remain with us for many more months to come and to therefore set aside sufficient funds to enable crew changes to take place whenever possible.”