After many months of COVID-related disruption, leaving crews frequently stranded on ships beyond the expiry of their contracts, there are signs that this crisis may be beginning to ease.
Further to industry-wide commitments made in the Neptune Declaration, the Global Maritime Forum (GMF) has announced that, in January 2022 the number of seafarers stuck on board vessels beyond the expiry of their contracts has fallen to its lowest level since GMF began compiling figures in May 2021.
Following highs of around 9% in July to September 2021, this figure fell to 3.7% in January 2022. This has, in part, been helped by increased vaccination levels, (seafarer vaccination rates are now sitting at 59.8%) with a record 10.3% monthly increase in vaccinations recorded from December 2021 to January 2022.
However, as the spread of the Omicron variant leads to increased infection levels and the reintroduction of restrictions in certain countries, the threat of continued disruption looms large. This is particularly true in China, where the government’s zero-tolerance COVID policy led to lockdowns at several Chinese ports over the new year period.
It is clear that continued co-ordinated industry and governmental action will be needed to continue the positive progress made in 2021 and avoid a return to the peak levels of disruption seen in 2020.