Potential Impact of Indian Crew Suspension

The industry impact on crewing following Royal Caribbean Group’s temporary suspension of hiring Indian crew due to the COVID-19 situation in the country depends on whether other cruise lines follow suit and when India is deemed “safe.”

India is an important source country for crew recruitment, and many Indians hold key positions in food and beverage and housekeeping, according to the Norwegian Seafarers Union (NSU).

The NSU said that latest estimates (2018)) showed that approximately 15 percent of crew and staff came from India, compared to 30 percent from the Philippines and 11 percent from Indonesia.

Recruiting and crewing companies surveyed by Cruise Industry News said they are continuing to recruit globally, including the Philippines, Indonesia and China, while following protocols of testing prior to travel, protective measures while traveling and testing and quarantine upon arrival onboard vessels.

Meanwhile, the companies are taking a “wait and see” position on India, where travel restrictions have been put in place and flights are cancelled for the time being.

If the situation in India does not improve in the near term and the crewing and travel restrictions continue, it could lead to a shortage of seafarers holding key positions as the industry ramps up for its return to service, according to the NSU.

There is also concern that the spike in India may spread to other countries Asia, and if that were to be the case it would pose a bigger challenge for the restart of the industry.

While American ports have recently announced programs to vaccinate seafarers, including foreign seafarers aboard cruise ships, the home countries of many seafarers have so far not prioritized their vaccination.

Reports from the April 19-23, 2021 meeting of the Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 made available to Cruise Industry News, show the IMO, the ILO and other international organizations calling on governments to prioritize seafarers and aircrew in their national vaccination programs together with other essential workers.

While the countries that ratified the MLC 2006 are obligated to ensure the health and safety of seafarers, COVID-19 testing and quarantine measures have also been applied disproportionately to seafarers, according to the reports.

Amond the demands of Special Tripartite Committee are that member countries shall in cooperation with shipowners and seafarers organizations procure vaccines for inoculation of seafarers in their country of residence or other appropriate locations, including ports of call.

Governments are also called upon to establish vaccination hubs for seafarers in ports where there is sufficient capacity.

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