The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global crisis affecting all aspects of life and narrowing the scope of work in most areas of work. It has severely disrupted the functioning of the maritime industry, affecting the jobs of approximately 2 million seafarers around the world. While many sector activities have come to a halt due to COVID-19, this pandemic has once again highlighted the strategic importance of the maritime industry, as 90 percent of the world trade is carried out by sea and especially the studies on logistics have gained momentum.
When the virus was declared a pandemic, the ships were initially kept on hold for 14 days prior to port operation, taking into account the incubation times specified by the World Health Organization (WHO). Although these periods did not cause much trouble for ships with long expeditions, these measures caused the operations to slow down, especially on ships with frequent voyage and port calls. In addition, within the framework of the new working order, the personnel working at the ports were divided into certain shifts, which caused active operations to slow down and the combination of these two reasons indirectly negatively affected the daily earnings and freight of the ship operators.
During this period, various problems were experienced not only in loading and unloading operations but also in the entire maritime sector. Within the scope of the travel restriction measures taken, there were problems in the location of the Seafarers and many Crew stayed at the ports and onboard Ships longer than planned. In addition, disruptions were observed in the supplies of the ships such as fuel, oil, fresh water, provisions, and paint. The measures and restrictions taken by local governments caused the planned and customary supply times to extend.
Unexpected increases in operation and handling charges were observed in various regions and ports in Australia and some ship owners had to spend this period in the repair-maintenance process at the shipyard. Also, a number of shipyards set a mandatory quarantine period of 14 days as a prerequisite for starting dry-docking operations of ships, and a number of classification societies also offered the option of postponing the mandatory repair maintenance period by allowing additional time to overhaul ships. Likewise, some shipyards disinfected ships that would enter the drydock so this process turned out to be a very long and costly process considering the size of the ships.
The current pandemic has also limited seafarers' ability to renew their health certificates. As it is known, according to the STCW (Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping) regulations, the maximum validity period of the health certificates of seafarers is two years. However, in the face of this situation, the necessary understanding was shown to the seafarers whose medical certificate expired, and extensions were provided by various flag states. According to the STCW regulations, the fact that compulsory maritime training cannot be performed actually causes a shortage of ship crews, which the sector needs. Fortunately, many of the flag states including the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have extended the certification renewal deadlines which can be review under the following link.
Marine Notice - 2/2020—Extension of standards of training certification and watchkeeping (STCW) certificates.
When the negative effects are evaluated in the long term, the results are; mainly the disruption of world trade, wear on ships due to delaying repair-maintenance periods of ships, lack of crew due to lack of necessary training, raise in unemployment across Industry, and most importantly, impact on health and well-being of the Seafarers.
The local government's support is necessary for the industry in many ways including offering grants, tax benefits to Employers and Seafarers. Eg: for training, upskilling, renewal of Certifications, etc, to encourage the current downfall in the sector.
Maritime Industry Australia Limited (MIAL) has made available to industry the MIAL Australian Maritime COVID-19 Border Closures Table.
Advice to the international maritime industry during COVID-19 - AMSA
Advice to the Australian domestic commercial vessel industry during COVID-19 - ASMA