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Demand for Eastern European seafarers rises amidst Asia lockdown

Demand Demand for Eastern European crew has been rising during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely due to Asian countries still being under lockdown. Shipowners and managers are looking towards Eastern Europe for seafarers, since countries that supply a large number of them, such as India and the Philippines, are still under lockdown. Senior executives from crewing agencies in Poland, Ukraine and Romania have corroborated the claim at the CrewConnect Europe Virtual Event, and all have observed an increase in demand for seafarers in the past half-year. Dariusz Jellonnek, general manager for V.Ships in Poland, explained that when countries such as the Philippines and India implemented lockdowns, stopping travel for seafarers, shipowners would turn towards European seafarers. However, the rise in demand was unable to be fully met as there was a limited supply of qualified Polish seafarers. He added, “Of course there are newcomers from the college who just got their certificates so it was slightly easier to put the young, less experienced people with clients.” Jellonnek also shared his worries that the surge in demand is only temporary, and that shipping companies will again look to Asia after lockdowns and travel restrictions are lifted. Ukraine also experienced an increase in demand for seafarers, particularly for ratings. According to Sergiy Khlopkov, deputy managing director at Marlow Navigation Ukraine, while the company’s usual supply ratio for crew was 70% officers and 30% ratings, the surge in demand for ratings has led to change, to 65% officers and 35% ratings. Romania, while usually not a popular source for ratings, has seen an increase in demand for both junior officers and ratings. However, as Romania has a higher standard of living and wages, shipowners may be less willing to hire seafarers from there. Romeo Stavar-Vergea, general manager of CMA Ships Romania, commented, “Now companies are looking to Romanian ratings which becomes a bit difficult these days. People are qualified and available, but the level of living increased in Romania these past years so they are not the cheap labour force of the past.” All three speakers proceeded to share their experiences conducting crew changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have been very disappointed working with authorities and governments as they are practically deaf to our requests for the seafarers, and it still continues in some countries,” added Stavar-Vergea. Source: Seatrade Maritime

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