Impact of the corona crisis. Episode 1: Wijnne Barends

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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 1: Wijnne Barends

Auke Douma is Crewing Manager at Wijnne Barends. This shipping company is located in Delfzijl in The Netherlands and is engaged in ship management, chartering, technical management and crew matters.

We interview Mr. Douma starting with a question about the currently present general support for the maritime sector in our society.

Do you think there is sufficient understanding and appreciation for maritime companies and seafarers?
‘I think some people don’t fully realize the degree on which our current prosperity and society depends on shipping. We are not surprised to find the shelves in our supermarkets filled with exotic fruit from all over the world. While about 40 years ago, there was no diversity in fruit to find in our Dutch stores, not even a kiwi. My mother used to make small towels from big old beach towels, nowadays you can buy a whole pile of guest towels for a few euros, just around the corner.
Without shipping and global transport, we would be put back years in history. I think raising awareness is a good thing and will help to improve recognition.’

Has this conception of maritime transport changed since the corona crisis?
‘The transport sector is now officially recognised as a vital sector, due the corona crisis. I think that makes sense when you consider that ships transport all kinds of important goods and raw materials by sea. For example, our ships deliver important raw materials for the production of fertilizer to Dutch ports. We also transport peat moss. Both of these materials are essential basic elements for the cultivation of greenery. We also transport steel from Germany to Spain, to keep the car industry running. Shipping is an indispensable and vital link in our current economic chain. “

What measures has Wijnne Barends taken regarding the corona crisis?
‘We postponed crew changes as much as possible to prevent people from becoming infected with the corona virus,’ says Douma. ‘A number of vessels in our fleet are currently on a shipyard for maintenance, here we make sure the ship crew stays strictly separate from the yard personnel.
We have also implemented special ship security measures and protocols applying to pilotage, the supply of stores and bunkers and so on. Fortunately, a lot of actions are digitaliz ed. Since the corona crisis, I think a huge step has been made with regard to digitalization. Where until recently a physical signature was needed everywhere, it now appears that a digital one also suffice.’

What have you arranged for seafarers?
‘Wijnne Barends always has the best interest at heart for our crew, that is no different now,’ says Douma. ‘We are currently looking for ways to relieve people from their duty at sea. This is important because of the risks of fatigue. During the responsible work on board of a ship, a crew member or captain is continuously focused. This requires a lot of energy and takes its toll on people over time. The question is whether these risks outweigh the health risk of infection with the corona virus. That is why we do our best to eventually get people home in the safest possible way.’

How do you improve the current situation on your vessels, now seafarers have to stay on board longer?
To ensure that people can enjoy themselves, Wijnne Barends increased the budget for recreational equipment for all ships. ‘We want to give our crew the opportunity to find some kind of distraction on board,’ Douma explains. ‘But actually, we have always paid extra attention to the health and well-being of people working at sea.’

Can you give an example?
‘As a shipping company, we continuously pay attention to factors that affect the health of our people. For example, some time ago we did a project about healthy food in collaboration with dieticians. All of our cooks followed a training on healthy nutrition. We even educated the trainer the trainer of ship cooks in the Philippines on health, nutrition and meal preparation. We are currently working on a hygiene project on our ships.’

Do you have a final say to seafarers worldwide?
“We are busy improving the possibilities to relieve crew on ships. As a maritime sector we are joining our forces to convince authorities to come up with a solution quickly. Many seafarers fear they won’t be able to return home shortly. I will do my utmost to make sure they can enjoy their well-deserved leave at home as soon as possible.

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