BIMCO: COVID-19’s implications for ship management

Our Group Director HSEQ & Technical, Matt Dunlop, is responsible for ensuring that V.Group’s 3000 shore colleagues operating in 60 offices in 30 countries go home safe at the end of each day and that our 44,000 seafarers go home safe at the end of their contract.

Matt was recently invited to take part in a webinar hosted by BIMCO discussing the implications of COVID-19 for ship management. The webinar explored four key themes: onboard precautions, crew changes, regulatory compliance, port and flag state inspections and technical operation.

Hosted by BIMCO’s Head of Maritime Safety & Security Jakob P. Larsen, Matt discussed the key themes with Spliethoff’s Head of QHSE, Marco van Rijsinge.

Below we outline some of the main take-outs from the webinar, and give an overview of how V.Group is approaching some of the challenges presented by the pandemic. You can also watch the full webinar on YouTube:

Onboard precautions

V.Group is continually providing guidance to shore based teams and seafarers, to ensure we are keeping them up to date with a constantly evolving situation. All our policies and procedures are created in compliance with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and Intertanko – Outbreak Management Plan: COVID-19, which we see as providing industry best practice.

As with all operators, crew changes are suspended until further notice until global travel and quarantine restrictions are lifted.  Where there is no illness on board, the ship’s accommodation can be considered a safe zone. To keep the vessel safe and free from COVID-19, we are ensuring that the number of visitors coming on board is minimized and controlled.

Managing visits on board

 Where it is essential for personnel to come on board, for example pilots, mooring masters and oil majors, we have implemented the following:

  1. Applied strict security measures to control access to the ship’s accommodation and ensure a single point of entry.
  2. Supplied COVID-19 PPE to the vessels and at least one infra-red thermometer for checking body temperatures.
  3. Ensured gangway lookouts are fully briefed on their responsibilities and duties.
  4. Completed health questionnaire of visitors before they come up the gangway and tested for elevated temperature.
  5. Prohibited visitors transiting crew accommodation areas.

For personnel who do not require onboard attendance, paperwork and payments are organised by email in advance, with spares and stores delivered to the dock.  The two-metre rule is observed when shore staff bring stores on onboard a vessel.

  • Crew going ashore

Our Masters are taking a pragmatic approach to crew going ashore, by discouraging or stopping shore leave except for emergency trips to the doctor or dentist.

  • Suspected COVID-19 on board

V.Group has appointed an industry leading medical management company to provide our managed vessels with 24/7 COVID-19 advice.  Each vessel also has an Isolation Plan detailing the measures to take in the event of a virus outbreak.

 Crew Changes

At V.Group, we remain concerned about the mental health of seafarers stranded at sea indefinitely. Prolonged periods of service onboard will ultimately result in a significant increase in mental wellbeing issues among the seafaring community. It will also have a negative impact on their families. Ultimately, such a situation can only jeopardise the safety of the individuals and potentially the vessels they sail on. We are collaborating with the shipping Industry in calling for Governments to adopt mechanisms which allow movement of seafarers to and from vessels and designate seafarers as international key workers.

As well as implementing regular senior leader virtual visit calls to each of our vessels, we have launched an “Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)” for seafarers’ onboard vessels in our Ship Management and Crew Management fleets providing free, confidential counselling support via telephone and online chat.

Regulatory Compliance

V.Group is committed to protecting its colleagues at sea and on shore, and to ensuring business continuity throughout the crisis. This includes maintaining its focus on safe vessel operations with certification and commercial acceptances being maintained. V.Group continues to work closely with Flag States and Class when surveys are due.

Port and flag state inspections and technical operations

V.Group works closely with all Flag States in regard to inspections and the States understand the position we are all in.  We have had good engagement and there have been no issues with their attendance.

We are focused on ensuring Planned Maintenance Systems are maintained, critical spare parts are onboard and purchase orders in place to replenish stocks. Our global procurement team have worked hard to reduce the impact of the pandemic on this area. Spares, stores and repairs are still taking place, albeit with restrictions.

The webinar ended by stressing the importance of taking action to help the 150,000 seafarers currently stranded due to coronavirus shutdowns worldwide. V.Group continues to call upon Governments to enable the resumption of crew changes and to recognise seafarers as key workers.