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Danish shipping companies scramble to find solutions as country shuts down

Danish shipping companies and suppliers are scrambling to find their footing, after the prime minister Wednesday evening introduced new measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. Employees will work from home, while production will happen in shifts.

Photo: PR / Fayard

Shipping companies and suppliers in Denmark are scrambling to find a solution to the dramatic situation in which they find themselves after the government Wednesday announced new and far-reaching initiatives aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Most companies have held meetings Thursday morning local time and are now informing employees about what will happen next, after the government encouraged all private companies to send employees home as much as possible.

This naturally creates big challenges for the companies.

We've listened to the prime minister's wishes that she doesn't want to halt Denmark and transports, and we therefore continue to sail on all our routes, also Copenhagen-Oslo

Gert Jakobsen, VP of Communications, DFDS

"It's chaos," as one top executive says when ShippingWatch caught the person on the phone.

Several sources ShippingWatch has spoken to say that operations or production will be maintained.

But work flows will be changed according to the recommendations from the government, so fewer people are working at a time.

DFDS keeps sailing

At ferry operator DFDS, all employees who do not necessarily need to be present at headquarters have been told to stay at home.

As for ferry services to and from Denmark, they will continue as usual, says the company's VP, Communications, Gert Jakobsen.

"We've listened to the prime minister's wishes that she doesn't want to halt Denmark and transports, and we therefore continue to sail on all our routes, also Copenhagen-Oslo," he writes in en email to ShippingWatch.

"On board we will follow the recommendations set out by the government, including no gatherings of more than 100 people in one location, as well as generally keeping distance to other people."

Suppliers follow recommendations

While shipping lines most likely have an easier time letting staff work from home, things look different for manufacturers, whose production is completely dependent on employees being present.

So far, work continues as normal at repair yard Fayard, CEO Thomas Andersen says in a brief comment.

We'll organize ourselves such that some employees work from home in a way that our customers shouldn't be able to notice. That's our ambition

Henrik Sørensen, Group CEO, Desmi

"Of course, we follow the guidelines set by authorities, and we're working according to those. That's all I have to say," he says.

For pump-supplying group Desmi, which employs around 1,000 people globally and consists of firms like ballast water system supplier Desmi Ocean Guard, yesterday's statement by the prime minister has meant a change in workplace procedures.

According to Group CEO Henrik Sørensen, however, the company is able to maintain its production as things stand right now.

"We're able to keep the wheels turning," Sørensen tells ShippingWatch.

Working shifts

Among other measures, employees have been split into teams that take turns clocking in and working from home.

"We'll organize ourselves so that some employees work from home in a way that our customers shouldn't be able to notice. That's our ambition," Sørensen says, elaborating that Desmi also poses restrictions on the use of workplace cafeterias, among other things, while the company no longer receives guests who "aren't directly business-critical."

Scrubber manufacturer ME Production, which, aside from its activities in Denmark, is active in China via a joint venture with product tanker carrier Torm, is able to maintain its production, according to CEO Jens Peter Faldt.

Here, work schedules and planning has seen changes.

"We follow the guidelines and send home those employees who can work from home, and in production, we've arranged things so staff work at some distance from each other. And we're actually keeping up the same output level," he tells ShippingWatch.

Denmark shut down for 14 days

The situation also prompts concern for the two major maritime lobby groups in Denmark, Danish Shipping and Danish Maritime.

While a great many employees at shipping company offices will have the possibility of working from home, things are different for member firms under Danish Maritime, such as shipbuilders and other equipment manufacturers.

"It's of course incredibly important to think about societal interest in the matter, even though we face challenges that could become expensive. Those who can work form home should do so. But we also have companies with staff who can't do that if business is to continue," Danish Maritime CEO Jenny Braat tells ShippingWatch.

For now, the Danish government has decided that schools, daycare centers, kindergartens and educational institutions must close for 14 days to prevent the corona contagion from spreading.

Moreover, the government urges companies to ensure that as many employees as possible work from home or take time off, either as vacation or as counterbalance for overtime. Gatherings exceeding 100 people are banned.

English Edit: Jonas Sahl Jørgensen & Daniel Logan Berg-Munch

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