Experienced leadership ensures proactive COVID-19 response

20 August 2021

Since completing his studies at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy in 1986, Sebjørn Dahl has dedicated his career to the maritime industry. He joined Höegh Autoliners in 1992 and currently holds the position as Chief Operating Officer. Responsible for the operations of Höegh Autoliners´ vessels, Sebjørn has been heavily involved in the company´s handling of the corona pandemic. 

Early corona response

In January 2020, the Höegh Trident was to dock in Zhoushan, which is located a short distance east of Wuhan in China, when Sebjørn Dahl was informed about an outbreak of Corona in the region. In Europe, there was no serious talk of a global pandemic at that time, but at Höegh Autoliners preparations started early. 

Sebjørn Dahl, Chief Operations Officer says, "Thanks to the collaboration across our teams, decisions were made early. We did almost all the planned work in connection with the docking, however based on prior experience we quickly understood the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation and took appropriate action."

Based on the experiences in China and through close contact with employees and partners, the company’s COVID-19 preparations started early. Necessary equipment was purchased to all vessels and its own COVID-19 task force was established.

Sebjørn explains,


We ordered masks, gloves, full-coverage suits and disinfectants and introduced extensive infection control procedures at the same time as we introduced a comprehensive crew change plan. Our measures were far stricter than the authorities' own measures early in the pandemic.

Ensuring safety of our crew

It quickly became clear that the crew could no longer go home as planned. In parallel with the planning of future crew changes in a very challenging situation the company established new procedures to stay in close contact with the vessels crew to monitor the working situation on board.

“The crew were afraid of not being able to go home. We made a clear choice at an early stage to use extra resources to carry out crew changes so that our seafarers could travel home to their families. In retrospect we are very happy we did this given the fact that we had to live with the pandemic for a long time”, he says.

Thanks to great efforts made ashore, the company was able to successfully perform crew changes during a very difficult situation.  

Sebjørn says,

It is no secret that seafarers may be the group that has taken the hardest blow during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring their safety and passage home has been a top priority. I am impressed, thankful and touched to see the great team efforts by all seafarers and shorebased staff during the pandemic.

A shared responsibility

In support of seafarers Höegh Autoliners, together with more than 800 organisations signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, which calls on government bodies to take urgent action to safeguard the rights and welfare of seafarers.  

Sebjørn shares,

Seafarers are key workers and play a vital role in delivering goods around the world. We have prioritised COVID-19 vaccines for our crew and thank governments and local seaman’s centers who have contributed to making the vaccines available.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruptions, Sebjørn looks back on recent times with great humility. Corona is not about individuals, individual companies, or individual countries. “This is a global common problem that we have shown that we can solve together”, he emphasises.