REPORT: COVID-19 Crisis – The “everything shock” in Shipping

Professor Johan Hollander, Dr Maria Carera-Arce, Mr Johan Danielsson, and Professor Raphael Baumler

On 3 June, the World Maritime University (WMU) presented the results of the two-year project, Effects of the COVID-19 panDEmic on sEafarers and shiPping (DEEP), funded by the Swedish Ministry of Infrastructure. The project report was presented by WMU faculty and researchers involved with the project in a meeting with Mr Johan Danielsson, State Secretary to the Minister for Infrastructure and Housing. 

The COVID-19 crisis (2020-2023) marked one of the six instances when the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern. Besides global disruption, the COVID-19 crisis had specific impacts on shipping. Despite the lockdown of many States that led to shore-based services and industry disruptions, shipping continued fuelling world trade without significantly noticeable disruption. 

The research project “Effects of the COVID-19 panDEmic on sEafarers and shiPping” (DEEP) reflects the remarkable resilience of the ships and port interface and the adaptability of port workers and seafarers. It also brings to light the vulnerabilities and trends within the sector. The ability of these workers to manage the shockwave ensured that trade flow continued, sustaining the world. However, this period had severe impacts on their livelihoods, starkly highlighting the industry’s inadequate consideration of its human element and the rapid pace of digitalization.

The research employed a unique combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches to explore and cross-validate information. This included an extensive document review, in-depth interviews, and surveys. The application of concurrent mixed methods research was a key feature to learn from simultaneous data sets, “triangulate” the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ports, seafarers, and families, and recommend avenues for improvement.

For ports, the consensus was that preparedness and cooperation are essential to address crises, and the workers need the organizations to demonstrate protection in action. Moreover, workers’ flexibility and creativity prove vital to adjust to crises while technology and digitalization support continuing business operations. Finally, any port health measure needs to assess and monitor the impact on seafarers.

For seafarers, the research concluded that COVID-19 has impacted every corner of work and life at sea. The short- and long-term impacts include an unmanageable work burden, more tired and unhappy crews, a less safe working environment, a high willingness to quit the seafaring profession and a pessimistic forecast of the welfare conditions of seafarers in the shipping industry. Conclusions include that job uncertainties, onboard hardships and life restrictions must be revised for seafarers, underscoring the need for dedicated effort to boost the workers’ morale at sea, promote health and safety and ensure they continue operating efficiently in times of crisis and beyond.

Overall conclusions for the shipping industry to better prepare and cooperate in future crises include,1) maritime organizations must enable feedback mechanisms for collecting good practices and knowledge sharing during ongoing crises, and 2) maritime organizations must work towards effectively integrating human factors and social welfare into industry practices and regulations.

WMU authors include Professor Raphael Baumler, Professor Johan Hollander, and Dr Maria Carrera-Arce.

To access the full report, click here. 

Related Documents
No items found.
Dissertation title
Deniece M. Aiken
Maritime Governance: Contextual Factors affecting Implementation of IMO Instruments
Anas S. Alamoush
The Transition to low and near zero carbon emission ports: Extent and Determinants
Kristie Alleyne
Spatiotemporal Analyses of Pelagic Sargassum: Biodiversity, Morphotypes and Arsenic Content
Kristal Ambrose
Contextual Barriers Facing Caribbean SIDS in the Global Governance of Plastic Pollution. Assessing the need for harmonized marine debris monitoring and contextual equity to support participation in the global plastics treaty negotiations by Caribbean SIDS
Ajay Deshmukh
Hinterland Connectivity and Market Share. A case of Indian Container Ports
Roxanne Graham
Combatting the Marine Litter Crisis in the Windward Islands: Examining Source-to-Sea Pathways and Fostering Multi-Scale Solutions
Tricia Lovell
Trinidad and Tobago
The Problem of Abandoned, Lost and otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) in Eastern Caribbean Small-Scale Fisheries. Understanding the Challenges, Defining Solutions
Renis Auma Ojwala
Gender equality in ocean science for sustainable development
Yingfeng Shao
Harmonisation in the Rules Governing the Recognition of Foreign Judicial Ship Sales
Seyedvahid Vakili
The Development of a Systematic, Holistic and Transdisciplinary Energy Management Framework to Promote Environmentally Sustainable Shipyards