COVID-19 and Maritime Key Workers

It may come as something of a surprise to learn that RMS, based in landlocked Altrincham has a longstanding reputation for expertise in the maritime sector.

More than ten years ago we were appointed by a group of the global industry’s leading organisations to tackle the problem of Somali piracy. In the intervening years, we have worked with numerous clients in the maritime sector, from those providing security to those transporting LNG.

We now have V.Group as a client.  You may not have come across them on your travels. Employing 44,000 people ashore and afloat, their business is managing the entire operation of maritime vessels on behalf of their owners. From 36 offices around the world, they provide everything needed to run a vessel – whether it’s a bulk carrier, container ship, tanker, gas carriers, cruise ship or ferry.  Think supplying crew, feeding the crew, training the crew, repairing and maintaining the vessel, buying supplies for the vessel, ensuring the vessel is compliant and passes all its inspections … you get the picture.

Anyway, we were appointed earlier this year to provide strategic marketing support.  An extremely interesting task.  Proposals approved, we were about to start implementing them when something totally unexpected happened …

The world locked down.

‘Invisible’ key workers at sea

The consequences for the global ship management industry were huge, instant and unprecedented. 200,000 seafarers were trapped at sea, unable to come ashore at scores of destinations. Airline traffic to repatriate and replace them had been frozen overnight. Supplies of virtually all the things a ship needs to keep operating were being disrupted. The world’s governments had a massive health and economic crisis to worry about. They all made special arrangements for their ‘key workers’.

Virtually none of them got around to thinking about the hundreds of thousands of ‘invisible’ workers at sea, who were among the most important ‘key workers’. When you consider that 94% of the world’s goods – medicine, food, clothing, cars, everything – is transported by sea, you’ll understand why seafarers are key workers.

The world’s governments had to be woken up to this fact. Seafarers had to be allowed to transit though locked-down ports and travel back to their countries of origin. Replacements had to be allowed to travel internationally.

Of course, for V.Group there were serious internal communications issues to address, too.  Wellbeing, safety, shore contact, HR, instant operational changes; customer reassurance, charter flights to replace locked-down airlines. Their various publics and stakeholders had to be kept informed, almost daily.  We could go on at length. 

We’ve helped V.Group with all of this activity – from lobbying governments to creating videos of the CEO sending morale-boosting messages to the crew to dealing with the maritime and national press. 

We helped free the world from the grip of Somali piracy, now we’re doing our bit to help free stranded seafarers. It’s been a very busy few months and we’ve loved every minute!

Want to find out more about how we can help your sector? Get in touch via our contact form, or give us a call on 0161 927 3131