Shipping company warns it's having trouble finding crew to run freighters, threatening further delays

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  kavika  •  3 weeks ago  •  22 comments

By:   gkay@businessinsider.com (Grace Kay) 49 mins ago (MSN)

Shipping company warns it's having trouble finding crew to run freighters, threatening further delays
"It's been really tough to be in this industry during the pandemic," a merchant marine told Insider, as COVID-19 causes a mental health crisis at sea.

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  • Wah Kwong Maritime Transport said its application rates are flagging for the first time in decades.
  • At the onset of the pandemic, over 200,000 seafarers were stranded at sea.
  • Backlogged ports and COVID-19 restrictions threaten morale for crews that transport 90% of all goods.

COVID-19 has taken a toll on shipping crews across the world - and a Hong Kong-based maritime company warns it could cause a lack of seafarers.

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Wah Kwong Maritime Transport, a privately owned shipping company, told Bloomberg crew retention and wage inflation have made it difficult to staff ships. William Fairclough, managing director at Wah Kwong, told the publication that applications to work on their freighters are dwindling for the first time in their nearly 70-year history.

"For certain types of ships, it may become very difficult to actually find the crew and you may get delays because of that," Fairclough said.

Maritime has long been an attractive industry, especially for workers from poorer countries, where seafaring represents an opportunity to make up to 10 times the average income in countries like the Philippines. But, the pandemic might have changed the industry for the worse.

Fairclough said wages have risen alongside risks of seafaring since the pandemic started, as sailors wait outside backlogged ports and travel to countries with higher coronavirus infection rates.

US merchant marine Bryan Boyle told Insider that his job became increasingly more difficult at the onset of the pandemic as crew were not allowed to get off the ship when it was docked and spent months isolated at sea.

"Sometimes it did feel like a prison when you were out there," he said. "It's been really tough to be in this industry during the pandemic. Many ships were not allowed to eat with fellow crew mates or go to the gym. You were only allowed in your room or work area."

Over the past two years, COVID-19 has created a "humanitarian crisis" for crews working to deliver 90% of the world's goods. Early on, the pandemic left captains unable to rotate weary crews and stranded over 200,000 seafarers at sea.

Boyle told Insider that many crew members turned to online shopping during the pandemic - the internet and the packages that they would receive at their next stop their only connection to the outside world. Last month, Bloomberg reported that container-ship captains were becoming increasingly concerned about maintaining crew morale as mariners wait weeks on end outside ports.

Even before the pandemic, a Yale University maritime survey found that about a quarter of merchant marines struggled with feelings of isolation and depression while at sea.

Boyle told Insider that life at sea has great potential for camaraderie, but it's easy to fall into patterns of isolation.

"You only have about 22 people on board with you. So a lot of you experience depends on how you get along with those people," Boyle said. "They can quickly become close friends that you organize game nights with or you work out together in the gym - or they can spend their time on their iPhone, keeping to themselves."

A survey of 1,200 mariners by the US Committee on the Marine Transportation System COVID-19 Working Group, conducted during the summer, found that feelings of anxiety and isolation reached all-time highs during the pandemic.

In July, trade associations BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warned that there will be a critical shortage of merchant sailors in the next five years if action is not taken to boost numbers.

"We are far beyond the safety net of workforce surplus that protects the world's supply of food, fuel and medicine," ICS secretary general Guy Platten told Reuters. "Without urgent action from governments the supply of seafarers will run dry."

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Kavika
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Kavika     3 weeks ago

Another link in the supply chain is strained due to the pandemic. 

The world, including the US got used to a JIT delivery service that was fast, regular and inexpensive. 

Shipping and port industries constitute 26% of the U.S. GDP, or around $5.4 trillion.

It should be noted that Wah Kwong manages 61 ships and most are bulk carriers. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @1    3 weeks ago

all that cleaning, mopping, scraping, painting... F that, go figure.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @1.1    3 weeks ago

And that is the easy part.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Senior Participates
2  Jeremy Retired in NC    3 weeks ago
Wah Kwong Maritime Transport, a privately owned shipping company, told Bloomberg crew retention and wage inflation have made it difficult to staff ships. William Fairclough, managing director at Wah Kwong, told the publication that applications to work on their freighters are dwindling for the first time in their nearly 70-year history. "For certain types of ships, it may become very difficult to actually find the crew and you may get delays because of that," Fairclough said.

Sound's like a China problem.  But then again the last problem in China gave us COVID.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @2    3 weeks ago

It's not a China problem at all, it world wide problem. 

 
 
 
Ronin2
PhD Quiet
2.2  Ronin2  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @2    3 weeks ago

Kavika is correct. This is a world wide problem. 

This isn't just the US or China not allowing crew from these vessels ashore once they are in port; it is most of the civilized world. The places that don't care are not places most would want to go ashore. Also, there is a backup at every busy port in the world in offloading; which exasperates the problem. 

While I think that type of isolated living is paradise- especially if my quarters and work space were large enough for some physical exercise, and there was good internet signal; I can see where most would start to feel imprisoned. 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.2.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Ronin2 @2.2    3 weeks ago

Internet signals are spotty at best when in port but when anchored off shore a mile or more out there is little if any internet access.

 
 
 
Ronin2
PhD Quiet
2.2.2  Ronin2  replied to  Kavika @2.2.1    3 weeks ago

Pad my room and I am all in. jrSmiley_88_smiley_image.gif

I think I would be kicked off the ship for trying to put a dish on top of the radar/radio towers. No internet signal- I thought they tracked these ships all over the world through GPS? Isn't that considered cruel and inhumane punishment?

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.2.3  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Ronin2 @2.2.2    3 weeks ago
Isn't that considered cruel and inhumane punishment?

LMAO, I hope that you don't have a fear of heights, you'd be about 20 stores up with only a howling wind to keep you company.

They have been improving internet service onboard over the last few years. I think it's around 65/75% that have access now but it can still be spotty.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
3  devangelical    3 weeks ago

I had an uncle that served in the merchant marine in WWII, in the atlantic. after his discharge, he never set foot on any boat again.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @3    3 weeks ago

The majority of crews for the huge marine fleets come from, China, the Philippines, Ukraine, Russian Federation, and Indonesia but there are thousands of crew from other countries as well.

 
 
 
Sparty On
PhD Principal
4  Sparty On    3 weeks ago

Maritime Academy near where i live can't pump em out fast enough.

Great Lakes Maritime Academy

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
5  seeder  Kavika     3 weeks ago

They will be deck officers or engineers and there is a worldwide shortage of them currently. 

 
 
 
evilgenius
Professor Guide
6  evilgenius    3 weeks ago

I'd certainly think about a career change were I young enough to seriously consider it. I'm way too old now to go to sea. 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
6.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  evilgenius @6    3 weeks ago

My great-nephew graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. There was a waiting line to hire him. He did his five years at sea and was later hired by the power company in NY. Many graduates do not make a career of living at sea. There is little to no family life.

 
 
 
evilgenius
Professor Guide
6.1.1  evilgenius  replied to  Kavika @6.1    3 weeks ago
There is little to no family life.

That is the con vs the pro isn't it? I didn't start having thoughts of getting out of the Coast Guard until after my son was born. I missed his first words and first steps. Sea life is a difficult life.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
6.1.2  seeder  Kavika   replied to  evilgenius @6.1.1    3 weeks ago
That is the con vs the pro isn't it?

It sure is.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.3  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @6.1    3 weeks ago

my nephew rejected a job as security on the indian ocean after his 4 security tours in afghanistan. I f'n begged him to get me a job doing that, but he said I couldn't qualify. wtf? exactly what does it take to empty clips into somali pirate boats and/or anything coming up the gangplank stairs? I cut my teeth blowing away prairie dogs on the ranch pastures as a kid every summer with my cousins. dream job denied. 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
6.1.4  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @6.1.3    3 weeks ago
dream job denied. 

The problem was that crew members were not allowed to be armed on board. That was something that the insurance companies demanded. Some changes were made after all the ships that were overtaken by pirates and I believe that security guards were placed on some vessels. They had to be checked out and had to be legit security companies.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.5  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @6.1.4    3 weeks ago

he had a friend doing that job and it sounded way cool.

 
 
 
shona1
Sophomore Participates
7  shona1    3 weeks ago

Morning...there is also a world wide shortage of shipping containers as well 

Some of the ships that come in here are rust buckets...the crews haven't been paid or the conditions on board are putrid.

The unions here black ban such ships until the crew are paid and conditions are improved. One ship was here for three months.

We removed the crew and they were quarantined and then allowed to stay on land. Most flew home and a new skeleton crew flew in and the ship finally left. Last I heard it was heading to the Phillipines.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
8  seeder  Kavika     3 weeks ago

Hi shona, 

There is a worldwide shortage of containers and chassis. In the US there is a shortage of rail cars, engine power, truck drivers and warehouse space. There is no space on the docks nor the inland depots. 

Record imports here up 38% over the highest year recorded. 

The industry has been warning about this for years and now it's come to fruition. 

Other than that, all is well...LOL

Here is a link to another article that I posted today with a great video of the entire container ship. Long video but well worth watching. 

Sadly you're going to have the rust buckets and unpaid crews but that is usually in the tramp steamer business not in the mainline container vessels. 

 
 
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