An Aberdeen-headquartered shipping agency has revealed that crew change costs rose fivefold last year due to complications caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
Ffolkes Offshore said the hike in costs was primarily down to longer hotel stays to allow for quarantining and testing, as well as the price of test kits themselves and transport.
It estimated that, in recent months, its clients spent more than £150,000 on hotel rooms in Aberdeen alone.
However, despite the sharp increase in costs, Ffolkes Offshore, which provides logistics services to the offshore maritime and renewable energy industry, enjoyed its biggest year of growth in 2020.
Grant Bruce, the firm’s co-founder, said the challenges of the pandemic have resulted in a “total re-imagining” of how to manage crew changes.
He explained: “There has been a huge increase in spend to our local suppliers on behalf of international clients – including hotels, taxi services and medical expenses. Testing alone has accounted for a significant amount and we have spent around £150,000 on hotel accommodation.
“There has been a total re-imagining of the way it all works. It used to take a day to join a ship, whereas Covid-19 precautions and testing has increased this considerably. In fact, it can be up to 10 days if there is a problem. This has resulted in the average cost of a crew change increasing by a factor of about five.”
As well as enjoying a year of record growth, Ffolkes Offshore recently doubled its warehouse capacity in Aberdeen.
The firm also opened a facility at Montrose Port in Angus in preparation for work on SSE’s giant £3 billion Seagreen offshore wind farm ramping up.
An additional hub has been established in Lowestoft in Suffolk to service shipping clients in the Southern North Sea.
The expansion led to the creation of six new jobs across Ffolkes Offshore’s three sites.
Bruce said the company had “jumped” at the chance to expand its base in Commerce Street, near to Aberdeen Harbour.
He said: “That is one of the advantages we have, as many competitors have relocated out of town. We are the only one with warehouse space within the harbour zone. It means we are able to get goods shifted that much faster, because fast turnarounds still matter.”
“One of the things we have done very well is offer our clients locally-sourced solutions to lower their running cost and change how things are done to help make them work more efficiently.”
Shaun Eardley, an investor who was recently appointed as a board director of Ffolkes Offshore, added: “There will is always be room in ships agency for a good local competitor. That is where we are, and we have excelled.”