Mariners and Truck Drivers Refuse Contracts as the New Variant Spreads
With truck drivers concerned over travel restrictions and border closures and ship crew refusing to sign contracts, the shipping industry is facing challenging times. From small logistics companies to big businesses, freight forwarders find it increasingly difficult to get enough staff amidst a surge in omicron infections. According to experts, about 20 percent of truck driving positions are still vacant despite the fact that logistics providers are willing to offer higher wages. They predict another year of severe supply chain disruptions, with demand exceeding supply and high costs for cargo owners.
Why Drivers Refuse Contracts
As omicron spreads quickly, truck drivers and ship crew are faced with border closures, long weeks of quarantine, and the risk of becoming infected. Some workers are looking for jobs elsewhere while others have already refused contracts. In Romania, for example, truck drivers are refusing long-haul jobs, especially in countries where the pandemic is raging. It is a scenario reminiscent of 2020 when truck drivers were stranded waiting for 18 hours at border crossings due to traffic jams.
The shipping industry is facing a labor crisis in light of the fact that worker shortages were already acute before the onset of the pandemic. Some forwarders were forced to raise wages by 1/3 between 2018 and 2021.
Seafarers Also Refuse Contracts
Some operators in Singapore report that about 1/5 of their ship crew are not interested in renewing their contracts. Operators have been forced to offer higher salaries and hire mariners working for other companies. A major problem is the fact that some crew refusing contracts are senior staff, including officers with tenure and experience. Sea shipping experts note that it was not easy to find chief officers with training and experience even before Covid-19. Amidst a prolonged pandemic, finding the right person has proven even more difficult, compromising the safety of crew and ships. Some shipowners are forced to hire officers who are not qualified. They undergo shorter training and are then promoted to positions previously filled by staff with extensive training and experience. Experts warn that this may result in groundings, accidents and incidents onboard, and pollution.
Crew shortages are expected to get worse as many charterers and carriers only hire vaccinated staff. The new omicron variant also requires booster jabs, making it even harder for international freight forwarders to find qualified crew. Statistics show that less than 30 percent of mariners from the Philippines and India were fully vaccinated as of November, 2021.
Airlines already report record levels of crew calling sick as the new variant spreads. With pilots and crew testing positive for Covid-19, thousands of flights were cancelled before New Year’s Eve. Pilot shortages are especially acute due to regulations regarding how many hours they are allowed to work a week. While laws vary by country, flight time typically includes tasks such as waiting time, deicing, and taxiing and not just the actual flight time.