The crew change, which had been periodically happening at the Chennai port, has been struck following the stringent COVID-19 protocols that are now in place.
Negative RT-PCR tests are compulsory to undergo a crew change in ships. This has led to unforeseen delays in implementing changes associated with new crew members replacing the old ones. In a vessel, an officer serves for up to six months but the sailors work for nearly nine to 10 months.
Shipping firms are firm about needing a negative RT-PCR and two doses of vaccine are mandatory for sailors and officers to onboard a ship. If the RT-PCR result is positive, the employee must quarantine.
With crew change being delayed unnecessarily, shipping firms are compelling the officers to serve for almost 10 months. The seamen are on duty for as long as they can.
A relatively senior officer employed at a shipping enterprise informed the IANS:
About 22% of the crew who had to join back tested positive. This led to a situation whereby leaves are not granted to crew members. The shipping industry is encountering a difficult situation and authorities are hoping that the phase will pass without causing extensive damage.
Chennai port officials reported that they will continue enforcing strict measures 24×7. The officials said that seafarers have to follow protocols once they leave home, reach the ship, and even inside the vessels.