05 August 2021

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; hence, BSM is working tirelessly as one global family to help communities in locations where it operates to navigate the ongoing health crisis and emerge stronger.

As COVID-19 continues to drag on, some countries have become more vulnerable to the debilitating impact of the pandemic. India, home to over 1.3 billion people, for example, found itself grappling with the second wave of the pandemic early this year. The number of infections and fatalities increased exponentially as the coronavirus spread beyond the big cities and into the smaller towns and villages, reaching record-high figures in May to overwhelm healthcare systems and crematorium facilities nationwide.

For BSM, the devastation of the second wave hit close to home as sea-based and onshore employees as well as their family members were infected by the virus. Captain Sankalp Shukla, Managing Director of the BSM Crew Service Centre (CSC) in India, revealed that the second wave saw 256 seafarers test positive for COVID-19 prior to joining and onboard a vessel while 26 shore-based staff were infected.

Employee-focused initiatives

The COVID-19 crisis in India has created an opportunity for BSM to show solidarity with one of its communities, with offices and employees across the world rallying together and responding rapidly to help colleagues in their time of need.

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“These challenging times reinforce our BSM values. As one family, BSM offered valuable support and was incredibly determined to help us through. I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Sankalp. Support came in the form of a COVID-19 relief fund amounting to USD 50,000 to provide financial assistance to junior officers and ratings who were adversely affected by the virus. Sankalp noted that shore-based employees across BSM offices also contributed to the relief fund to tide over seafarers and their families during their medical emergencies.

The CSC India also conducted vaccination drives in Mumbai, Calcutta, and Cochin for all employees and their immediate families. Moreover, it procured oxygen concentrators accessible to any employee or their family members in need of oxygen supply.

With the holistic wellbeing of employees in mind, BSM also offers telemedical support through the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), which allows seafarers and their family members to speak confidentially to a trained professional 24/7.

Enormous challenges

Although the second wave outbreak has turned the corner, Sankalp said that the CSC India continues to deal with enormous pandemic-related challenges affecting their daily operations, including imposed lockdowns and quarantines, strict protocols, multiple health tests, and evolving travel requirements.

While these challenges have increased everyone’s workload, Sankalp said they understand that all their efforts contribute to addressing the crewing crisis created by the coronavirus situation. As a signatory to Global Maritime Forum’s Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, BSM has joined the global call to action to facilitate crew changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sankalp said that seafarers are also doing their share to protect their livelihood and look after their wellbeing by getting inoculated and adhering to health and safety measures like proper wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintaining social distancing. He encouraged all employees to avail of the COVID-19 vaccines for added immunity.

“Employees are at the core of the business and will remain our priority. BSM will always champion employee safety, and wellbeing.” added Sankalp.