Airline industry steps in to help shipping sector and seafarers

Community lifelines

Thanks to air bridges established by KLM, seafarers can again be flown in to relieve their co-workers, who have now been on board for several extra months. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic they have had to remain on board. Finally, they will get the chance to join their families at home. KLM is acting in response to a request from the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR).​

Worldwide, more than 150,000 seafarers have been waiting for a solution for months now. The Dutch shipowners account for around 12,000 seafarers. Sea transport serves as the logistical backbone of world trade, with no less than 90% of all goods being shipped by sea. Seafarers being able to travel to and from these ocean-going vessels is essential for the safety of these vessels at sea.

“The coronavirus pandemic has led to severe travel restrictions, which also vary from country to country. Cancelled flights were a further consequence. Within a short space of time it became virtually impossible for seafarers to travel home from ocean-going vessels and vice versa,” says KVNR CEO Annet Koster. “We are very grateful to KLM for having embraced this initiative and for the fact that the air bridges are now a reality. This is a welcome development for seafarers, their families and shipowners alike.”

KLM will begin implementing the plan – drawn up jointly with KVNR and Boers Crew Services – to once again facilitate crew replenishment. The (Dutch) shipowners have the greatest need for air bridges between Amsterdam, which is close to many major seaports in Northwest Europe, and the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia and Poland, where most seafarers reside.

KLM is already operating flights between Amsterdam and Warsaw, and is currently in consultation with the Russian and Ukrainian governments and aviation authorities to obtain permission to operate flights to Kiev and St. Petersburg. As of 25 May, KLM will be operating four flights a week between Amsterdam and Manila, stopping over in Bangkok.

Harm Kreulen, Managing Director KLM The Netherlands: “With the strategic location of our Schiphol hub in combination with the Ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, KLM has for many years been a major worldwide carrier of seafarers. Many of the clients united under KVNR are also counted amongst KLM’s key corporate clients and business relations. It’s fantastic, especially at a time like this, that we can show our loyalty to this sector by establishing these ‘air bridges’. The initiative also ties in perfectly with the further resumption of service across our network.”