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Ship repairs in post-pandemic recovery

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Shipowners can still carry out ship repairs and maintenance works despite travel restrictions remaining in force in some countries

The colossal impact of COVID-19 has dented ship repair works due to various travel restrictions and regulations imposed across many countries. A recent report by shipbroker, Intermodal, said that the ship repair sector rounded off 2020 vastly different compared to 2019. Shipyards have observed a massive spike in drydock postponements, remote attendances and sharp decline in repairs.

Hike in repair works
Vassilis Vassiliou said in the report, “We would expect to see more scrubber retrofits, which of course would be affected by the oil prices and price spread between high and low sulfur content on heavy fuel oil (HFO). Maybe more conversion projects, given the numerous speculations about the revival of offshore business.”

Not ruling out the older fleets’ needing more intense works, Vassiliou expects to see a relaxed demand after a tip. In comparison to the decline in 2016, he anticipates 2021 to be supported by a rise of ballast water management systems (BWMS) installation. This followed an IMO mandate issued last October, which directs all BWMS to be IMO Ballast Water Convention compliant.

He feels the pandemic should not be deemed as the catalyst for such market movements. “Such events will occur sooner or later with COVID-19 spread only affecting the time these developments take place. Changes will happen eventually. Therefore, we expect 2021 to be busy for all the repair yards and a significant slowdown in demand by the end of the year,” he notes.

Getting around travel restrictions
With the current volatile COVID-19 environment; countries returning to lockdowns, closing borders and imposing travel restrictions, it gets trickier for ship maintenance. Vassiliou notes though Asia is a popular location for repairs, there are drawbacks between countries in terms of permits. The Letter of Indemnity (LOI) which allows superintendents or specialists to travel under special concessions, the administrative process timeline varying between countries and cities is a concern. Additionally, LOI can be revoked immediately if more cases are observed in one area.

In Europe where many countries are facing repeated virus waves, Asia naturally gets concerned about receiving European vessels in the near future. Intermodal’s analyst offers three ways for shipowners to get around this conundrum:
1) Request from class a postponement.

2) Try to change the vessel’s itinerary.

3) Bring the vessel close to places free to attend or use the locals to execute the repairs.

Vassiliou concluded the first is most preferable and will result in many drylocks, adding to the list of the earlier planned ones. Noting the third being the least desirable, he explains owners will minimise the scope and firm the vessel to familiar shipyards – for fear the attending superintendents fail to perform.

Ship maintenance is essential to crew safety and optimum operation. For neglected vessels, it can cause severe environmental and monetary implications. Shipowners and charterers can look to Marine Online’s extensive network for marine services at competitive costs.


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