Henrik Jensen, managing director at Danica Crewing Specialists, is advising ship operators to set aside additional funds in next year’s budgets for crew changes.

As maritime industry representatives and seafarer unions express their concern at the reluctance of some charterers to detour their vessels to enable crew changes, Jensen warns that ship operators should expect higher crewing costs in 2021.

After analysing recent crew costs and reports, Jensen said that each crew change is costing an additional USD2,000 – a two-fold increase from pre-pandemic prices in 2019.

This cost applies for every crew movement. “So for one person joining and one retuning home the cost is approximately USD4,000,” Jensen explained. The figure is based on the 1,276 crew changes on bulk carriers, which Danica Crewing Specialists made over the period March to September 2020.

He noted that airfares have risen significantly and due to reduced timetables and last-minute changes, flights are still difficult to book, contributing to the increased costs.

Jensen added that the analysis does not take into account the costs of lost charter revenue in cases where redirecting vessels to ports where crew changes are allowed causes delays: “However, vessel deviations caused only for the purpose of crew changes are rare today as more ports are open for crew changes,” he said.

According to Jensen, these additional costs are a recent development. “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.”

Jensen said that although the designation of seafarers as essential workers helped to resume crew changes as much as possible, what was once a straightforward shipping activity has become a “seriously complicated challenge”.

“There is 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,” Jensen said.

Although every additional cost cannot be forecasted, he continued, “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.”