Keeping vessel attendances going during the pandemic- an interview with our Field Service Manager, Apostolos Antoniou

Aug 4, 2020 | Latest News

The global pandemic has seen enormous changes to all areas of our lives. In this interview, Apostolos Antoniou, our Field Service Manager, outlines how the Navarino Field Service Management (FSM) team has coped with strong demand for installations on the one hand while working within the restrictive environment of a global lockdown on the other.

‘The FSM Department that I manage has seen significant challenges since the global pandemic struck. Even before coronavirus, arranging installations on ships has never been a straightforward exercise– often due to the fact that vessel schedules can change at the last minute, or for a hundred other reasons. But coronavirus has multiplied the number of obstacles that can arise to interrupt or delay installation projects. The most common such issues we have faced are as follows –

1. Transportation restrictions:

Our engineers sometimes cannot travel to the destination port due to safety measures including transportation restrictions, mandatory quarantine before and/or after the attendance, plus a 14 day travel history requirement. For every attendance request we receive, we have to investigate whether or not our engineer can travel to the requested port, while following such transportation restrictions that are continuously changing.

2. Ports/shipyards permit entrance:

Because of coronavirus, many ports and shipyards have applied additional security and safety measures to avoid the virus spreading. These include additional paperwork, COVID tests and checking our engineers’ travel history prior to the attendance. Even though our engineers always have all the required paperwork we have seen cases where our engineer was not permitted to enter the shipyard.

3. Short vessel stays:

In some ports, especially in China, a vessel’s crew has to take a COVID test on arrival. In such cases no access is permitted on board unless there are safety, health or critical situations. In turn, the time taken for the results of the tests mean that there is often not enough time for our engineers to attend before the vessel sets sail again.

4. Customer restrictions

Several of our customers have put in place COVID measures in order to prevent the virus spreading to their seafarers. Such measures can include additional paperwork and COVID tests before arrival, minimal interaction with crew members, no overnight stays on board and some even forbid embarkation entirely.

In addition, often the shipping company’s own IT manager is unable to attend its vessels to prepare the necessary IT or VSAT pre-works. This means that sometimes our engineers are asked to carry out these tasks, which can add days to the attendance that are sometimes not feasible due to these restrictions.

Due to these factors, all attendance arrangements have dramatically changed since the COVID restrictions came into effect, essentially starting from February 2020. Every single attendance arrangement needs a lot more correspondence between our service engineer, our customer and agents compared to pre- COVID times. In the past, FSM would confirm engineer availability to the customer or agent and make the travel arrangements accordingly. Nowadays, FSM needs to spend a lot of resources on ensuring the engineers visit can happen and often it is unknown if an attendance might get cancelled at the last minute.

Despite all these conditions that certainly make our job more difficult, installations are possible and Navarino has seen a high number of successful installations in spite of the conditions. We are responding to these challenges not only by exploring every possibility of getting our engineers onto vessels, but also by expanding our service network through several new service partnerships around the world. We use online tools to help train these new partners where needed and we support them remotely to the fullest extent possible.

As you might understand, Field Service Management is one of the Navarino departments most affected by the coronavirus restrictions due to the ‘hands-on’ nature of our work and the amount of travel that is inherently involved in our job.

While we predict that these difficult conditions will persist for some time to come, we shall continue to work at full capacity and as safely as possible in order to keep our customers’ vessels connected, online and to meet the heavy demand for our services, even during these extraordinary times.’

Many thanks to Apostolos for taking the time to put this interview together, the whole Navarino team is very proud of how our FSM is operating during this challenging period and we thank them for their hard work and dedication!