Crew Change in the Covid-19 Era

Crew change is an important and challenging part of any marine seismic operation. It is particularly true for a highly diverse company like PGS that employs skilled professionals from all over the world on its vessels. Crew changes can be complex, however since March 2020, the differences in government response to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic have made crewing significantly more challenging and complicated.

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Before Covid-19, crew change dates for all vessels were known at least 12 months in advance. The duration of each trip was fixed. The core crew for each vessel was known. Since March 2020, crew changes have been among the highest risks to our vessel operations. Because PGS regards the safety of its crew as its highest priority, if that risk were not mitigated to an acceptable level, operations could be stopped or delayed.

Throughout 2020, crew change dates were based on a compromise between operational needs, availability of air transportation, and preventing crew burnout. Trips were extended for up to 10 weeks, to limit the amount of travel and provide more time for crew change planning. Crewmembers that joined shifts in February for a five-week deployment were still at sea in May.  At home, many crewmembers on break were not able to leave their country of residence. This quickly developing situation created significant logistical challenges that the operations department had to overcome if we were to remain in production.

Each vessel had specific guidelines and instructions for each crew change. Regular crew change planning meetings were held (at least weekly) prior to crew change, to determine crew availability, if they could leave their home country, if they could enter the country where the vessel was located, to get the crew safely to the vessel and the off-signers home. Teleconference meetings were held with the on-signing crew prior to crew change, to explain the crew change plans and provide an opportunity for crewmembers to raise any concerns. With each crew change, the team has learned valuable lessons and made improvements for the next.