Key considerations for crew and contractor travel in the post Covid world

Wayne Durkin
17 Mar 2021

As companies within the Marine, Offshore and Renewables sector continue to navigate the choppy waters of COVID, Clyde Travel Management Sales Manager, Wayne Durkin considers what these companies should be expecting from their TMCs as we move into the post-COVID stage in the not too distant future.

“As the global vaccine programme starts to roll out and the world emerges from lockdown, what will be the implications for your Oil & Gas, Renewables, Marine and Offshore travel programme, and what can your organisation do to prepare?

“Companies within these specialist travel sectors have continued operations throughout the pandemic. With over 90% of the world’s food, fuel, raw material and manufactured goods delivered by sea, shipping companies and the seafarers operating these vessels have enabled much needed essential goods to be delivered to countries around the globe.

“However, crew changes and mobilisations for these organisations has been hugely challenging, due to the entry restrictions applied to crew in key travel hubs and ports.  When this is aligned with reductions in airline capacity it has made the organisation of travel extremely difficult.  The introduction of various test and quarantine requirements have also added to the complexity.

“This has resulted in many seafarers not being able to return home at the end of their contracts and remaining on the vessels for an extended period of time or isolation in quarantine when onsigning and offsigning.  Often forgotten, the world’s seafarers have made huge personal sacrifices, with many away from their families for months on end to keep our stores open and supply chains moving.  For this reason, we should be grateful for the sacrifices that the world’s seafarers have endured to bring us the goods we needed to survive and to fight the pandemic.

“As global travel restarts, this article looks at what trip management could look like with some recommendations to prepare your travel programme for crew, contractors and shore-based employees. Below are some areas that we at Clyde Travel Management feel will be a priority in the remainder of 2021 and beyond.”

Crew change planning

“Travel for the marine and energy sectors has always been complex, with key travel hubs located in areas that often require multiple flights to reach final destinations.  However, the pandemic has added additional layers of complexity for managing crew travel and we expect this to continue into 2021.

“Whilst travel vaccination passports will provide a solution for travellers longer term, in the interim additional time should continue to be factored in for the mobilisation of on-signing and off-signing crew.  Despite exemptions for seafarers by many nations, companies should prepare for pre-trip testing due to a continuation of the entry regulations across the globe.

“Although there will be some stabilisation regarding regulations, it is clear that the Covid-19 virus will not be fully eradicated. This means that companies should continue to expect regulations to change frequently and with short notice should a new variant emerge or a spike in cases occur in a country.

“It is therefore really important that you work in partnership with your Travel Management Company (TMC) some of whom are be able to provide guidance and consultancy around the latest restrictions and regulations related to the crew change.”

Supporting your travellers

“It will also be essential for companies to prepare their employees and contractors for a return to travel.  For many travellers, it should be remembered that these will be the first trips they have made for many months.  Having a TMC who is available 24 hours a day 365 is therefore critical to ensuring that your crewing managers and travellers are fully supported.  It is critical that the 24-hour support team are based in-house of the TMC and not outsourced to a third party, ensuring consistent communication and application of updated travel and traveller health policies for travellers.

“Some of the current protocols will remain in force.  Whilst airlines, hotels and airports will all have a focus around hygiene, it will still be important for organisations to remind their travellers of the need to follow the requirements for social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing and personal hygiene. It some markets for example the Philippines, there will be requirement for PPE to be worn on board aircraft.

“Companies can  provide their travellers with all of the PPE essentials required for a trip with a number of companies providing Travel Hygiene Kits, such as those provided by Gate8 and Enviro-Point’s Travel Hygiene Kits.

“From an organisational perspective it will be important to travel policies to reflect the above requirements. In addition, Travel Managers, Crewing and HR teams will need to ensure that existing crisis management protocols are reviewed to support any scenarios related to Covid-19 from a country and employee perspective.”

Planning & Budgeting

“The costs of travel form a significant part of a crew change and organisations should continue to prepare for flight costs to remain high throughout 2021. Despite international travel starting to return, airlines will still operate with a limited capacity on most routes.  This limitation in services and capacity will reduce seat availability as demand increases with this impacting on flight costs.  According to IATA air schedules are not expected to return to 2019 levels until 2024 and therefore budgets should be a consideration, as it is likely that reduced capacity will stimulate increases in airfares.

“From a budgeting perspective the Customer Relationship Managers from your TMC partner will be able to provide guidance and consultancy around predictive pricing for budgeting.  However, good planning and organisation of trips, crew changes or mobilisations will be critical in making sure that you maximise your travel budgets and minimise any avoidable changes as last-minute bookings will be expensive!”

Working in partnership with a specialist travel partner

“A critical success factor to getting your travel programme ready will be working really closely with your travel partner.

“They should already be providing support and guidance around the ever-changing country entry regulations and requirements. However, companies should also take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of your TMC’s Customer Relationship Manager can also be a vital resource in helping you to plan your approach to restarting travel.  In addition,

“In addition, your Customer Relationship Manager will also help with suggesting updates to your travel and traveller safety policies.

“Only a travel company who specialises in travel for the marine and energy industries will be able to provide the levels of expertise and support that will help your business successfully navigate the continued challenges that will face companies managing crew changes in a post lockdown world.”

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