Currently, commercial ship´s traffic is frenetic throughout the world and most of the trade and the maintenance of a good percentage of the industry depend on this incessant coming and going. A ship cannot be moored in port longer than it needs to load and unload her cargo, because, otherwise, the profitability of its operations would be compromised.
As you can imagine, on board ships there is a very high demand on the professional crew, who need to be relieved upon completion of their contractor in an emergency medical case, so that the ships continue to operate without delay. This change is known as a ship crew change and it is a delicate operation.
Every month, more than 150,000 crew members are relieved on time around the world. These crew changes take place in all types of vessels: passenger ships, Yachts, Container vessels, Tankers, General cargo vessels and deep-sea fishing vessels that spend long periods out of port. However, it is in cargo ships where this operation becomes crucial: carrying out the crew change on time, correctly can determine the success of a charter and, therefore, its profitability.
Next, it is explained what crew change means and what it implies for crew members, ships owners and specialized crew change agencies.
What does crew change mean: more than just a change?
The ship crew change is a fundamental operation in the large commercial vessel´s operation on which international trade rests. It involves the total or partial replacement of the ship’s crew and must be synchronized in such a way that when the ship arrives at the port, the change can be made safe and in the shortest possible time.
To make everything easier, shipping agencies trough their local ship agents come into play, which are the specialists in this type of operation. These agencies have offices in most ports and their professionals are highly qualified to manage this type of work. In the case of a crew change, your intervention is very important so that everything goes well and the ship does not waste a minute unnecessarily and it is that, relieving the crew of a ship is not as easy as it may seem at first glance.
On board ships the crewmembers are often multinational crew, which may involve visa applications or renewals and other formalities, paperwork to allow the movement of people. In addition, it is possible that the sign-on, sign-off crew must be transferred to the relief point, which may involve travel management, airplane tickets or other means of transport, hotel reservations, diets… a real logistical fit that requires experts in this type of very specific crew change management.
Amarok Husbandry Agency trough their Las Palmas Port Agents provides Crew Change & Medical Assistance services in MID-ATLANTIC ports in Canary Islands, Spain.
How to change ship’s crew
Starting a crew change operation is a logistical and bureaucratic effort. The usual thing is that the ship’s Master or the ship’s owners / ship management company, appoint a local ship agency for their crew change operation, which can be total or partial. At that moment, the agency starts to manage the crew change request in the shortest possible time.
The Ship Agency will notify the crewing department, sign-on crew of local immigration requirements and the place and the date on which they must embark and, if necessary, will transfer them to the embarkation point. Often it is also necessary to manage the stay of the crew members in the port, place where they wait for the ship, contracting accommodation, transportation etc.
When the ship arrives at the port of destination, the ship agency coordinates the embarkation of the sign-on crew, their luggage and also the disembarkation of the sign-off crew that goes to rest. This, again, may involve embarkation / disembarkation formalities and crew transfers. In addition, the appointed husbandry agency will take care of all the paperwork, such as visas, work permits, COVID 19 PCR tests etc.
And if one wonders if the Las Palmas, the shipping agencies also act as husbandry agency “off port limit”, that is, when the ships call outside the ports designated limits without stoppage, then, indeed, for this type of operation they can serve this type of operations including ship supply. The ship agent, port agent is responsible for safe transferring to the crew on board, whether the ship is moored in port, anchored at outer anchorage area or Las Palmas off port limit. The shipping agency is required to inform, apply and get all the permits and authorisations from port authorities for a safe crew change operation.
Quality standards: key that are respected
Crew changes cannot be made in any way, but must follow scrupulous quality standards. These standards involve aspects such as the correct management of documents, the custody of data and documents, the use of security materials in embarkation and disembarkation operations and, ultimately, everything that ensures that the crew changes are carried out in a standard and safe mode.
Why is it so important to relieve the crew on time?
Making a crew change in port is a matter of safety. Working at sea is very hard: long shifts, bad weather, dangerous materials, loneliness… In addition, merchant seamen’s contracts usually involve Seafarers’ Employment Agreement (SEA) of up to 9 (nine) months, with shifts of 10 or 12 hours, working seven days per week without taking a day off. These working conditions take their toll on the seafarers, who can feel tired.
A tired crew is a crew with less capacity to react to a dangerous situation and, therefore, a risk. When crew members on a ship are tired, the possibility of mistakes and accidents increases. And it is already known that an accident on land, with medical assistance relatively close, has nothing to do with a mishap on the high seas, perhaps thousands of miles from any hospital or any form of external help. The work and rest hours on board ships, plays an important role to avoid the accidents and disasters.
Therefore, crew changes are essential to keep officers and ratings in perfect physical, emotional and mental condition. In addition, they are necessary to comply with international regulations on the safety and welfare of sea workers. Specifically, the International Labour Organization (ILO), in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006), states that a seafarer cannot serve on board for more than 11 months in a row, except in cases of force majeure.
As you can see, carrying out the ship crew change in an orderly and timely manner is vital for a shipping company. Amarok is one of the ship agencies with the most experience in this type of operation and offers everything that a ship may need at its stopover, in addition to crew change management.
Working with Amarok Shipping Agency Las Palmas, you get quick and safe handling of crew signing on or off the vessel, avoiding unnecessary delays!