Impact of the corona crisis. Episode 2: Jumbo Maritime

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Impact of the corona crisis: the story of our clients

In this series Anker Crew Insurance gladly shares stories and experiences of maritime employers. The global impact of the corona crisis is immense for everyone, maritime companies included. The special challenges our maritime clients are facing shows how the corona crisis affects the maritime sector, but also indicates how important shipping is for all of us.

Episode 2: Jumbo Maritime

In this interview with Cees van Tilburg, crew coordinator at Jumbo Maritime, you can read how this company makes sure that every employee is seen for what they’re worth, despite the difficult times. Jumbo is a heavy lift shipping and offshore transportation & installation contractor. The main office is located in Schiedam, The Netherlands.

Many seafarers are currently stuck on board of their ship, since Covid19-measures complicate traveling and crew changes. What is the current situation?

“Crew changes slowly get going at the moment, but in most countries it is still very difficult to sign people off.” The vessels in Jumbo’s fleet don’t sail on a fixed time-schedule, but are part of the so-called ‘tramp trade’. This means the ships are deployed on a project basis, transporting heavy cargo all over the world. Van Tilburg: “Our seafarers know what it‘s like to not know in advance when and where they can be signed off. But currently, the uncertainty is taking too long, even for them. The current pandemic situation sometimes makes it impossible to let people travel home from the ship. There are problems at airports, with obtaining visas and with procedures concerning Covid-19 testing and quarantine.”
“The only thing seafarers currently need, is to go home. Unfortunately, the current situation sometimes makes that close to impossible,” says van Tilburg.

What are you doing to improve this situation?
Jumbo sees her people as vital employees and is treating them as such. Van Tilburg: “Jumbo doesn’t forget anyone. Sometimes our hands and feet are tied, but we are doing everything we can to help.
For years, we have a policy in doing everything we can to make sure that people have a good time on board. Despite the tedious situation for some, the atmosphere on all of our ships is still very good and calm.”
This may also be a result of the way in which van Tilburg and his office-colleagues are communicating with the people who work at sea. “We inform our seafarers as much and as often as we can. People just want to know when they can go home. We do our best to inform them as soon as possible, offering perspective is very important,” says van Tilburg.

Meanwhile, the people at home are not forgotten. For example, the management of Jumbo delivered flowers to the partners of all seafarers who were stuck on their ship, as a token of appreciation and support. To improve communication for seafarers with their loved ones, Jumbo has increased the bandwidth of the internet on all vessels. “The current situation is very difficult for many people, which is why we want to recognize the situation as much as possible and share what is going on,” van Tilburg explains. “By sometimes trying small things, we can hopefully provide some comfort and take away concerns. For example, we ask people on board whether they have enough stock of medicines and other personal consumables such as contact-lenses. We make sure that these things are provided to the crew as soon as possible.”

Does Jumbo also provide something for the seafarers who are waiting at home?
“When people are at the end of their leave period, we give them the opportunity to get involved in our office projects when available. This not only enriches the function that people have but also brings other advantages,” explains van Tilburg. “Seafarers gain experience working on-shore while contributing to the project with their acquired practical expertise on board. At Jumbo we make no difference between fleet and office staff, we all have the same mission. Of course the duties and type of work that people perform differ, you simply do different work on board than in the office. But we try to involve people as much as possible in the company as a whole.”

Sounds good! Do you also offer training or education as an employer?
“In addition to the mandatory STCW training for seafarers, Jumbo has also been offering so-called ‘Mind Saving Training’ for a number of years now. These external, digital training courses deal with a different theme every month. Various topics such as healthy nutrition, physical exercise and burnout prevention are discussed. Participation of these courses is not mandatory. Some people are more interested in these subjects than others, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to take their advantage of the information. Furthermore, our company does a great deal in the field of innovation and we like to give our people the opportunity to develop in this area,” says van Tilburg.

Finally, do you have any tips for other maritime employers?
“I hope that maritime Dutch employers will be able to work together more in these times of crisis. We are all experiencing the same problems at the moment, let’s make sure we get out of it together. If the market is going to be tight and people are going to be unemployed, let’s make sure that we don’t hijack people from one another, but treat each other with leniency.”

Cees van Tilburg also has a message to the various authorities that deal with seafarers: “It would be a positive turn when the value of the maritime sector is recognized and appreciated. When authorities are willing to think along with us and collaborate, recreating normal working conditions at sea is achievable.”

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