Impact of Covid19. Episode 3: NSB GROUP

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The story of our maritime clients. An interview with Dominique Kreuzkam

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 3: NSB GROUP an interview with Dominique Kreuzkam

To seafarers worldwide I would like to say: ‘Never lose your confidence. Know you are key workers and that the world needs you: crew is the key to shipping.’

Dominique Kreuzkam

These are the words of Mr. Dominique Kreuzkam, Head of Information & Communication Unit at NSB GROUP (NSB Niederelbe Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG). He is responsible for the corporate communications at this German shipping company.

About 200 people are working for NSB GROUP onshore worldwide. They are managing new building projects and ship management services for containerships, tankers, offshore and other vessels. The company also owns a specialized maritime training facility and can provide crew members to third parties. Close to 1,300 seafarers are currently sailing for NSB GROUP around the world.

Dominique is working at the head office in Buxtehude near Hamburg: ‘Best thing is, that I have a chance to let other people know what the company is doing.’ By means of websites, press contact, events and a special corporate magazine NSB GROUP communicates with their different key groups.

’We want to build confidence that our company is and will remain strong’

Dominique: ‘My job is to communicate that our company is prepared and concerned. And that we care about our people. We provide our staff with a framework, where they can act in and can feel safe.’

Since the outbreak of Covid19, many seafarers have to wait on board to sign off, sometimes for very long periods of time. Changing crew on board of a ship became a difficult, expensive and time consuming job. Problems with getting the required documents or visa’s and mandatory testing protocols or quarantine periods vary per country. It determines the daily routine of many maritime companies.

Sometimes vessels have to deviate from their original schedule and sail to additional ports, just to be able to perform a crew change. Even off-hire had to be accepted to make a crew change happen. Due to the current situation, NSB GROUP was able to successfully perform more than 60% of the total planned crew changes since March 2020.

‘Recently our crewing manager told me she has to “force” people in her department to go home in the evening, since they would rather stay in the office to continue their work.’

‘Everyone deeply cares about all the people currently at sea, who are having a hard time sometimes. The connection between the office and our people at sea is strong. We keep close contact with our people at sea and are doing our utmost to get seafarers home on time. But the measures authorities and governments have taken worldwide are causing a lot of trouble.’ Dominique emphasizes:

‘The restrictions we have onshore during lockdown are nothing compared to the crews that cannot go home to their families.’

Moreover, NSB GROUP is aware of the psychological impact a crisis situation can have on human beings and their mental state. ‘Conditions seafarers experience during the Covid19 pandemic in special, but also in different situations on board, might trigger aftereffects or have impacts on someone long after the concerning event,’ Dominique explains. ‘We are collecting experiences from the past in “lessons learned”. And we are discussing mental health issues and possibilities of prevention in forums and together with other companies. We are working on implementing more psychological consultancy in the future.’

NSB GROUP is keeping people informed by publishing regular QHSE newsletters and raises awareness on safety issues by keeping regular contact with the fleet. ‘During Corona we performed our first Online Officers’ Conference via videocalls, and we will repeat several more this year. It’s better to prevent than to ignore’, Dominique says. ‘Prevention and preparation is important. If you are open to understand the needs of the crew on board, you can be pro-active in your approach and take action as a company.’

For employees in the office, this meant everyone had to be provided with the means to have a full functioning home office. The seafarers on board of the ships were facing other challenges. The standard safety guidelines on board were complemented with Covid19 related regulations. ‘We sent facemasks, thermometers, hand sanitizers and other supplies to all of our vessels. Logistically this was a major challenge, since supply chains were blocked during lockdowns and stock were limited.’

Dominique illustrates: ‘I think as a shipping company, we have the responsibility to raise awareness about what is important to us and keep this flowing in the right direction. In the end we want to keep all of our people involved in that flow, so everyone has faith that our company is doing the right thing.’

To conclude our interview, we asked Dominique about his view on the future.

‘I think more effort has to be taken to improve the critical situation concerning crew changes.’

‘The several attempts to raise awareness around the subject, like ships in ports sounding their horns, are good but have an insignificant impact on common people. Their interest fades away, while the problems remain.
It must be clear: Merchant shipping is important to every one of us, but most people are not aware of that.

From an ethical point of view it is necessary to inform people and change the situation for the better. Pressure on political positions and publicity to raise awareness might help to make crew changes easier. We want our crew to return home safely.’

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