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Supporting crew changes during COVID-19

Posted by: Matthew Spells

Countries all over the world are implementing travel restrictions in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Imposed restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted crew mobility. The travel restrictions have barred crew from disembarking their vessel to return to their home country, or from travelling to a port where their ships are waiting for a crew change. Some seafarers have also been struggling to obtain exit and entry visas, whilst the suspension of flights has added to the difficulty of moving crew around.

WRS has been able to provide consultative support to our clients with crew changes during COVID-19. The objective was to keep our clients’ vessels operational and contain costs whilst maintaining a highly skilled workforce. 

We spoke to the Divisional Manager on WRS’s Marine division, Matt Spells, who told us, “One way around the travel restrictions has been using ground transport to get crew members to vessels and to airports that are open. We’ve been organising transport in different countries to assist with crossing borders. Numerous crew changes have been within Europe by private bus or train, rather than by air.”

Matt’s team have been working harder than ever for their clients and candidates during this COVID-19 outbreak, coming up with innovative solutions to the challenges posed by this pandemic. For crew members that have been unable to leave their vessel, WRS has been arranging ferry transfers home. This has been especially important for crew stuck in places where no flights were taking place into country. “We had a vessel dock in Germany but a number of our crew couldn’t get home to Lithuania. Ferry transfers were an effective solution here,” explained Matt.

When crew members leave a vessel, we’ve been organising COVID isolation periods. Alongside this, we care for our contractors pre-joining through screening, dealing with positive cases and repatriation. We’ve also been busy arranging COVID tests in advance in home countries to avoid isolation costs in country of joining. 

For many of our clients, we’ve had to conduct specific searches around nationalities to obtain crew who could join vessels. There has been a whole range of issue to consider, including flight restrictions and VISA applications in their own country. We’ve drawn upon our industry experts to source local personnel, which has the added benefit of reducing travel costs. These measures ensure that our client’s vessels can continue to operate with competent personnel on board. The work these vessels do is absolutely vital and WRS has been proud to support our clients in continuing this work.

The support we give our clients is available 24/7. Our dedicated team works most evenings and weekends to ensure speedy responses to queries and deal with the numerous flight changes and cancellations that we’ve experienced.

There is no doubt that this has been a challenging period for the marine industry, but through hard work, compromise and innovation, we have been able to support the continuation of vital work.


WRS can save you time and money by supporting internal resources, providing you with the best pre-qualified candidates when you need them. We are a workforce solutions company with offices in Europe, the Middle East, APAC and the Americas, supporting the needs of maritime companies around the world. We employ specialist sector consultants, who can help you to identify the expatriate and local personnel you need to keep your business moving.

Contact the WRS Maritime team on +44 161 925 2626 or email us on


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