Opinion: Government Intervention Needed to Keep Shipping, Energy Businesses Moving
In times of crisis sometimes the easiest response is to be heads-down. One of the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that history will look back on as key to the resilience of people and commerce, has been cooperation. As a specialist travel management company (TMC), it is a privilege for ATPI Marine & Energy to be part of unprecedented collaboration in the shipping and energy industries.
Right now, these sectors are joining forces in ways never seen before to ensure that ships can sail, rigs can operate and people can be relieved and get home safely. Our efforts are boosted by industry bodies, ensuring these collaborations stretch yet further. There is now an urgent need for committed support from governments and policy makers worldwide – whose nations depend on the shipping economy – so that these efforts do not go to waste.
We are faced with significant challenges in key countries where there are limitations to the number of international travellers permitted to enter, and leave, in a day. In some cases, the limit on international arrivals and departures is around 400 people, not far off just one full plane. Sometimes flights can land and allow passengers to disembark to continue their journey to a port or rig, however in many cases that flight then needs to return empty as quotas have been met. Each time this happens, more marine and energy professionals cannot get to where they need to be, including home.
Working offshore for periods of time that exceed contracts is dangerous. Fatigue and loss of concentration are just some of the factors to consider, and these conditions are prohibitive to working safely in a hostile environment. We are collectively up against a fast approaching deadline in mid-June to meet the requirements of seafaring trade unions for those who are already working on extended contracts to return home.
We have achieved some success with chartered flights moving crew around the world to where they need to be in the most cost effective manner. Over 25 specially commissioned flights have already successfully allowed crew rotations for many different organisations. There are many more in planning alongside the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) and other specialist TMCs, but without the right government and border permission for commercial flights to land and crew to carry on their journeys, they could end up frustratingly wasted efforts.
Cities around the world such as Rotterdam, Manila, Mumbai, Odessa, Singapore, Hong Kong and Houston are central to the marine and energy sectors and our clients share a need to move people between them. A charter flight for one crew rotation is cost prohibitive for most businesses, but when the industry comes together and has government support, it is a very viable option. It’s an incredible example of how competing businesses can pull together and support each other to overcome a problem they have in common.
Our experience in managing travel for crew rotations throughout our 100-year history means that we have been able to find workarounds and plan for ever-changing protocols every day of this pandemic, but we are limited by government restrictions. We are working with our industry colleagues to push governments for changes to travel restrictions and transit barriers for those who work offshore. Without collaboration from policy makers, the people who work in shipping and energy will suffer significantly.
We certainly know our industry is better for keeping its heads together, and we urge government decision makers worldwide to take action to join us in ensuring that global cargo can move, and essential fuel can be extracted.
About the Author:
Nikos Gazelidis is the global head of shipping for ATPI in both Greece and Cyprus. With over 25 years’ experience in the travel industry, Nikos joined Instone International in 2005 (now part of ATPI) to establish the operation in Greece, growing the business by an average of 15% per annum, which today is ranked among the top three marine travel companies in the region. Nikos has spoken at many local and international conferences and has been a regular author in national industry journals. He has also been a member of the Hospitality and Catering International Management Association (HCIMA) and the Hellenic Institute of Marketing (EIM).