Crew Changes & COVID-19 in the United Kingdom

  • calendar

    10 August 2020

  • location

    United Kingdom



Measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have brought widespread disruption to normal crew change operations, with many seafarers prevented from disembarking or joining their vessels.

GAC UK’s Agency Operations Manager David Thorburn presents his guide to the current status of crew changes in the country including: where they may be conducted; what restrictions are in place; what requirements must be met; and how many changes GAC UK has handled to date.


What challenges and restrictions do shipowners/operators face when arranging crew changes in the United Kingdom, and how have your local contacts helped to ease the situation?

Crew changes in the UK have become extremely challenging due to COVID-19, particularly with the issues arising around lack of flights and achieving social distancing guidelines with transport providers.  Offices around the UK had to re-evaluate some of the supply chain, a prime example being in Aberdeen where a new transport provider was sought that had installed screens between driver and passengers allowing full social distancing to be achieved. This transport provider has travelled as far as London for Aberdeen crew changes due to lack of flight availability across the UK and lack of transport providers that could achieve adequate social distancing. 


How many crew change operations have you successfully executed since COVID-19 lockdowns started?

Crew changes are still being conducted throughout the UK, albeit in smaller numbers than before the virus. Very few ports and terminals have banned crew changes.


Are there any specific crew change examples you wish to highlight?

Our Global Offshore Agency Services (GOAS) team were involved in arranging a charter flight for a crew change for a vessel in Trinidad. This included crew flying via the UK and involved a lot of work with border force and the UK Visa Waiver team to navigate issues surrounding seafarers having to be in the country longer than the usual 24 hours while in transiting through the UK due to a lack of flights.


There is great uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic; how long it will last, and what its impact will be. How are you managing this from a crew change and lay-ups perspective? What are your expectations for the coming months?

We have been well on top of the difficulties involved in continuing operations in the UK since the pandemic surfaced and even before the country was put into lockdown. From the beginning, we set up a national team providing daily updates on a the GAC website, to keep our clients up-to-date.


For the latest updates about COVID-19 status/measures and the impact on shipping, including crew changes, in countries around the world, go to www.gac.com/coronavirus.