The facility for crew change in the outer harbour of Kochi port, which has carried out a large number of crew change operations since May 15, 2020, has been stopped through an order of the Director General of Shipping, said the president of Kerala Steamer Agents' Association M. Krishnakumar here on Monday.
He said that Kochi had handled a large number of crew change operations and these included handling of 1,081 ships, 18,159 seafarers, 9,620 crew sign-ins and 8,839 sign-offs. The total number of operations was 1,168. Crew change operations in the outer harbour of Vizhinjam has also been stopped, he added.
The steamer agents’ association said that when COVID-19 hit the country, considering the humanitarian situation, “our members risked their lives and came forward to support the government initiative”. The steamer agents, in close coordination with Cochin port officials, Cochin Seaport Immigration, Cochin Customs, Port health authorities, Kerala and Central government officials worked hard to facilitate the trade at Kochi and Vizhinjam, he added.
The pandemic times had seen a steep downward trend in the overall shipping business and the entire trade was stabilised through crew change services. Crew change operations also created many employment opportunities and was a great support to hotels and tourism industry in Kerala, Mr. Krishnakumar added.
The benefits of the crew change operations were shared by many sections of society and business institutions including the authorities manning companies, shipping agencies, hotels and taxi operators, he pointed out.
The steamer agents are of the opinion that the "sudden" end to crew change operations can affect the trade, which is still recovering from the pandemic impact even as there is a rising trend in COVID 19 cases.