Focus on people will be legacy of COVID-19, CSM President tells SMI podcast

Despite promising results from the trials of several COVID-19 vaccines, Mark O’Neil, President and CEO Columbia Shipmanagement has warned that the virus will be with us for the long-term and stressed the need for the industry to adapt.

Speaking in a SMI podcast on how the shipping industry will change in the next 12 to 18 months he said: “I don’t see the industry changing that much. We are not going to come out of COVID-19, vaccine or not. Probably more than 50% of the population won’t take the vaccine. There will always be measures that have to be put in place to protect shipboard personnel and shore personnel from COVID-19.”

Mr O’Neil  and Director of Crewing Norman Schmeidl spoke about how the pandemic had brought sharply into focus that it is the people who matter and how the past few months had given the Columbia team time to reflect on what really matters to them as individuals and as a business.

“Focusing on the people has been the prime objective up until now and going forward and will be the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think before that there was far too much distraction on technology and digitalisation – the tail was wagging the dog – and while digitalisation and technology are massively important, we have to remember they are there to enhance our people’s performance not replace it,” said Mr O’Neil.

Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM) has taken the issue of seafarer care to a new level with the introduction of a series of initiatives that will promote their health, fitness and well-being to a standard not yet seen in the shipmanagement sector.

As part of its push, CSM has invested in, and is subsidising, ColumbiaCrewCare – a benefits package which offers seafarers life insurance and an investment plan for medical costs, disability provision, pension planning, or house/car purchase – all from a starting cost of €1 per day.

It also provides mental health support through a dedicated 24-hour helpline and Mr O’Neil said this had all been greatly received by those at sea and on shore.

“Our morale onboard our vessels and within or offices has never been higher in spite of COVID-19,” he said.

To listen to the full podcast please visit: https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-cfjha-f2d62e