“When people think of safety and security in relation to seafarers' travel, they think about the flights or hotels in isolation, but operations begin as soon as travellers step outside of their door to embark on their journey,” explains Pam Kitching, Managing Director of ATPI Africa.
Given the remote and varying locations that crew are required to travel to in the maritime industry, ensuring their safety and security is complex and can never be taken for granted.
“Everything must be monitored and planned for ahead of time. In some locations, leaving crew to their own devices just isn’t an option,” explains Pam Kitching, Managing Director of ATPI Africa.
So what are the main challenges involved in transporting seafarers safely from deck to door?
“Safety and security issues are quite difficult to predict ahead of time,” shares Pam. “Political climates and volatile situations can change in a second and new threats can escalate very quickly, so remaining vigilant and informed is a real priority.”
“Carrying cash presents a challenge when moving crew on the ground, as this can obviously make them a target for gang crime,” says Pam. “Transferring cash electronically also isn’t as straight forward as it sounds, as reliable connectivity can be a problem in Africa and 90% of transactions and communications are made via cell phones.”
Managing threats by location
Pam acknowledges that security threats vary depending on location, as most are influenced by the political climate of a country. “In Nigeria, for example, there is a national problem with gang culture and so travellers sometimes require a police escort. In the event of an accident, finding adequate medical care can be difficult in some areas of Africa, so this also needs to be taken into account when planning travel,” Pam explains.
“Within Africa there are limited airlines servicing certain countries, many of which are actually banned by the EU,” Pam tells. “This is often at odds with an organisation’s travel policy and so this also needs to be considered and provided for by travel policies – if not, travellers can wait two or three days for an approved flight, wasting valuable time and resource.”
“The world feels as though it has gotten smaller in the last decade or so, and there are very few places that we can’t get to, but it’s easy to forget about the security problems that are specific to certain countries if you’re not experienced in booking and managing maritime travel,” Pam warns. “As a TMC, our goal is to get everyone where they need to be, and back again, safely.”
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“We provide our clients with advice regarding their approach to duty of care, which has become somewhat of a hot topic within the shipping sector in recent years, and offer them access to technology such as traveller tracking services to give them peace of mind.”
“Our complete crew travel service, Door to Deck, was actually tested in Africa, pitting it against some incredibly challenging security issues,” Pam reveals. “We work closely with ISOS and Control Risk in order to provide clients with the most up-to-date and comprehensive security information.”
To maritime organisations looking to enhance their approach to safety and security for their crew, Pam recommends paying attention to pre-trip reporting; “Pre-trip reporting is one of the most important things to do when trying to ensure safe travel for crew. It ensures that everyone is aware of any security risks or updates to volatile situations, meaning this can be mitigated and planned for accordingly. Situations develop and incidents happen, but being as prepared for them as possible is the best way to mitigate their effects.”