What keeps crew managers up at night right now?
Although crew managers are not only responsible for crew rotations and travel, arranging crew travel can take up the most amount of their time.
What keeps crew managers up at night right now?
As crew managers continue to adapt to an unpredictable and fast-paced situation, we take the time to examine the greatest concerns for crew managers right now...
The role of crew manager has always been demanding, but the 2020 pandemic has seen the challenges that crew managers have to overcome every day increase tenfold.
Although crew managers are not only responsible for crew rotations and travel, arranging crew travel can take up the most amount of their time. With an estimated invisible workforce of 1.5 million people working offshore, it’s easy to see why. Crew managers face the difficult task of balancing the needs and wants of offshore personnel against the financial health of a ship or oil rig, all within a turbulent industry during a turbulent time.
The logistics of crew travel have become significantly more complicated now that the threat of Covid-19 is present, with the average crew rotation taking five times longer when compared with pre-pandemic schedules.
As crew managers continue to adapt to an unpredictable and fast-paced situation, we take the time to examine the greatest concerns for crew managers right now:
What are the main concerns for crew managers today?
Keeping crew safe as they travel for essential work is paramount right now and is a pressure that crew managers take upon their shoulders every day.
When planning crew rotations crew managers must now consider the variety of health requirements imposed by border controls, airlines, airports and ports (medical tests, quarantine time, PPEs, additional time spent onshore etc), all whilst dealing with the uncertainty fostered by the fact that a global safety standard has not yet been agreed and adopted by offshore bodies.
Cost remains a priority for crew managers. With crew travel coming in as the second biggest cost next to crew salary for marine and energy organisations, crew managers play an important role in balancing and managing budgets. With the economic demands of the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to take their toll on many organisations, those responsible for the travel of offshore personnel are under more pressure to deliver cost savings.
Intrinsically linked with the cost of crew travel is the efficiency of a crew rotation and any time savings that can be made. There can be huge costs involved in crew
being late to a vessel or rig. The travel itineraries of crew can change in minutes, particularly with new travel guidance and restrictions being enforced around the world, and so crew managers are now keen to find ways to minimise the impact that this has on timings and deadlines. Repeated delays and setbacks can waste a lot of time, resources and ultimately money.
How have these challenges changed over time?
The shipping and energy sectors have pushed for a more humane approach to crew rotations for the last few years - a need that has only been further highlighted by the outbreak of Covid-19.
As a result, crew managers are constantly balancing the needs and wants of crew with the priorities of employers as they search for a humane and cost effective approach.
With many crew stranded at sea during the early phases of the pandemic, the world began to appreciate the physical and mental toll offshore travel and operations can take on crew. In May 2020, ATPI Marine & Energy worked alongside the International Maritime Employers’ Council in the repatriation of over thousands of stranded crew.
Compared with pre-pandemic processes, crew rotations have become more manual - something that is unexpected in a sector that saw a significant push towards the digitalisation and automation of many travel processes.
Although these additional processes are necessary if crew are to be kept safe and travel is to be kept compliant, they require more time and resource, which increases the amount of time it takes to manage a single crew rotation.
Some of the additional tasks that ATPI Marine & Energy have built into the crew travel booking process during the pandemic are:
- Constant updates to all travel consultants via ATPI Alerts
- Identification of possibly affected travellers by any new restriction or other change of situation via the ATPI Duty of Care team
- Continuous monitoring of airline websites to confirm current bookings as cancellations can occur without prior notification
- Online research for repatriation and charter flights
- Constant phone and written communication with airlines and embassies
- Waiting list configuration and updates
What can offer the biggest help or reassurance to crew managers?
Communication is key when managing crew - whether that’s with the crew themselves, with port authorities or with your travel supplier.
Fortunately, the cost of communicating with vessels at sea and oil rigs has reduced significantly in recent years and therefore it’s easier to talk to offshore workers than it has been historically. Given the fast-paced nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s essential that crew managers feel they are able to easily communicate with their travel suppliers in order to stay up to date with changing travel restrictions and guidelines.
However, it’s important for crew managers to set guidelines and processes for streamlined communication to ensure that everything that is shared is useful.
Hand in hand with better communication between vessels and those offshore is the quick adoption of onboard technology. Speaking at the 2020 edition of CrewConnect, Nikos Gazelidis, global head of shipping at ATPI Marine & Energy, outlined the urgent need for shipping companies to address crew logistics as a single, seamless process by integrating information from manning agents, port agents and travel management companies.
Reducing the current fragmented set of manual functions that a crew change requires will save money, increase efficiency and highlight ahead of time when there is a high risk of a crew change not happening.
Gazelidis said:“Crew changes are about cost and viability, and as shipping companies work around the challenges of shrinking airline networks and extra quarantine times for crew, the bill is getting bigger. Mitigating these costs in the long run requires looking at crew changes as one integrated function, and all parties involved need to have the same visibility and accountability.”
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