HomeNews DeskPress Releases Covid-19 and its impact on the tanker industry

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO) has advised its Members to take measures to assist the global efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 and is urging charterers to take the same flexible and pragmatic approach taken by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Control measures put in place to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus have hit the tanker industry in four areas:

  1. The ability to relieve crews from ships;
  2. The ability to arrange SIRE and CDI inspections;
  3. The ability to complete repairs and supply spares; and
  4. The issuance of statutory and Class certification.

1. The inability for seafarers to travel and join ships is something that affects the entire shipping industry. The impact on families, the mental welfare of seafarers and issues related to long-term fatigue are very real concerns. For tankers there is the additional impact upon the crew matrix and the breaching of statutory limits on crew trip length.

2. The tanker industry is reliant on the seamless implementation of vetting and inspection regimes administered by OCIMF and CDI. However, ships are unable to undertake SIRE and CDI inspections due to the inability of inspectors being able to travel to ships. This means that many tankers are unable to maintain their regular (six-monthly) inspection schedules.

3. Tankers are complex pieces of machinery and rely on maintenance from specialised technicians joining ships from manufacturers and spare part providers. With increasing travel restrictions, those specialists and spare parts are hard to come by.

4. Flag and Class inspectors are being prevented from joining ships and therefore are unable to issue certificates.

In light of these issues, INTERTANKO has advised its Members to take the following steps:

  • Assume that the problems will last for several months.
  • Plan ahead and undertake a SIRE / CDI inspection at the earliest opportunity, including on loading or idle if possible.
  • Inform charterers of any cancellation of inspection.
  • Remind charterers that inspection reports are maintained on the OCIMF and CDI systems for periods of 12 months or longer from the date of receipt and remain valid. Time restrictions on their validity are the choice of individual charterers.

In order to provide objective evidence that these steps are being followed, INTERTANKO is advising its Members to keep detailed records of all refusals/cancellations of inspections and any problems related to travel for seafarers, superintendents, inspectors and repair technicians.

INTERTANKO has also drafted chartering provisions to address Covid-19 for both time and spot fixtures, including wording that provides for any SIRE inspection required to be suspended if affected by Covid-19 until the vessel’s trading pattern allows such an inspection. This should generally be accepted and understood by charterers as unavoidable, with an allowance being made for the vessel’s trading pattern until an inspection can be arranged.

INTERTANKO Chairman, Paolo d’Amico, welcomed the measures suggested by the IMO, ILO and WHO in their various circulars, calling on States to adopt a flexible approach and implement force majeure measures. He further considered it very positive that these measures have been recognised by the majority of Flag States and Classification Societies, who are adopting a practical and pragmatic stance on affected regulatory matters.

Mr d’Amico encouraged charterers to apply a similar level of pragmatism in the application of their internal rules and preferences and to recognise the best efforts INTERTANKO Members are making to comply with inspection regimes. Since Members, through no fault of their own, are unable to comply with the normal rules in these extraordinary times, flexibility is needed in order to ensure sufficient tonnage to carry the world’s oil, gas and petroleum products, avoiding untold knock-on effects for the global economy.