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Crew Change Crisis 2.0 Shows Signs of Worsening Amid India Virus Surge

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May 7, 2021

By Ann Koh (Bloomberg) Hundreds of thousands of seafarers risk being stuck at sea beyond the expiry of their contracts because of India’s surging coronavirus outbreak, according to one of the world’s largest independent crude ship owners.

The situation suggests that a maritime labor crisis sparked by the pandemic is continuing into 2021, as a growing number of major ports around the world restrict entry to Indian crew members, which constitute about 15% of the world’s total.

“Those people are restricted from being rotated, and have to stay on board for a much longer time period than their contract is for,” said Hugo de Stoop, chief executive officer of Euronav BV, in a Bloomberg Television interview Thursday. “We fear that we’re going to see the scenario that we saw in the first wave and some part of the second wave” of the pandemic.

Last August, about 250,000 mariners of all nationalities who were overdue for crew changes had their contracts extended, according to the International Chamber of Shipping. As of March this year, about 200,000 seafarers were past the expiry of their contracts and unable to be repatriated, according to the International Maritime Organization.

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