In some form or another, every industry has experienced its share of Covid-led disruption and ships crews have been some of the most-hard hit.
As the virus spread, ships were left stranded and not only were there outbreaks on board, but ships, passengers and crews were kept offshore to try and keep the virus isolated. However, while solutions to get passengers home were eventually found the situation for crews has often been desperate.
The UN’s Labor Agency has estimated that since the start of the pandemic between 150,000 and 200,000 marine crew members have been trapped at sea. Most of them quarantined in small cabins, cut off from their families, not knowing when they might be allowed to return home. Meanwhile, the virus has spread through ships with those on board having limited or no access to medical attention. In many geographical locations the situation is still ongoing as the world faces a second wave of infections.
This situation has brought the wellbeing of crew members into sharp focus amongst ship owners. Our clients care deeply about the health and welfare of their crews and their families and we are seeing increased demand from ship owners to factor accident and health cover into their marine insurance buying.
It’s a huge psychological boost to a crew member’s mental health knowing they and their family are protected while they are at sea. With many crew members coming from developing countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and India, this kind of cover is a vital part of their terms of employment.
Most of the best schemes which Oneglobal has been involved with are structured along a bronze, silver and gold tiered system, so the longer a crew member remains with the shipping company the stronger and more comprehensive the package of health and employee benefits becomes.
Of course, the provision of this kind of package is not without cost, but it can potentially recoup huge savings for ship owners in recruitment costs. Recruiting good crew is a time-consuming process, meaning it is an investment as much as a cost.
The employee benefits incentives can be an attractive draw for crew members making the difference between renewing or not renewing their contract. So retaining more of your current crew, and attracting the highest quality new recruits can save time and money and makes investing in accident and health cover seem worthwhile.
So far, it’s the bigger shipping companies that have been making this investment. However, in a post-Covid world, more ship owners are going to be forced into rethinking how they incentivise their staff, as many staff who have experienced long periods at sea may become reluctant to continue sailing.
Our long experience of the industry leads me to the conclusion that shipowners care deeply about the wellbeing of their crews and know that their health is key to the health of the company. If long periods at sea become the norm as the pandemic takes it course those owners with comprehensive medical and benefits cover that protects crew and their families back at home will likely be the most attractive employers.
Given time, it may become an industry standard.