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How Purchasing Has Adapted

Supplying Vessels in a Pandemic:

How Purchasing Has Adapted


The pandemic created by COVID-19 has affected many of SMT’s operations, and the Purchasing Department is no exception. The Nautical News had the opportunity to interview Ania Szyszko and Kate Skrabalak, both from SMT, as well as Bernt Villeng of Seaway Marine, to ask about the impact of the recent crisis on their offices.


Restrictions in Poland began on March 8, 2020, limiting travel and providing shelter-in-place rules (exceptions were made for essential workers and trips to groceries and pharmacies). Masks and gloves are required along with social distancing. As a result of these new rules, SMT’s Purchasing Office in Poland is closed and employees are working from home. This new routine is complicated by the fact that schools are also closed, so childcare is an added responsibility during the day.

Mrs. Ania Szyszko

Mrs. Ania Szyszko

Ms. Szyszko noted that she has begun working more at night when her children are sleeping or in the early morning (aside from the being on call during normal business hours). Technology use has increased, particularly videoconferencing. “Quickly adapting to the new conditions and isolation” have been the biggest challenges for Ms. Szyszko, but she added that “the world...has changed and we need to adjust as soon as possible – change is inevitable and those that adapt, survive and thrive.”

Ms. Skrabalak remarked that while she has been working from home since March 11, she is continuing to perform her duties with the same level of commitment as always, with a particular focus on crew safety. She feels that it is important to stay in contact as much as possible with other members of the purchasing team so that they can support each other and keep up with the exchange of knowledge that is more natural in an office environment. Asked to cite an SMT employee who should be specifically recognized for their dedication, Ms. Skrabalak said, “I think we all care a lot for our crew onboard and put our highest attention to their needs.”

Seaway Marine, founded in 1974, has been working with SMT since 1990 as one of its main suppliers of everything from food to tools to engine parts--all elements that are needed for our vessels. The company was started by Bernt Villeng’s father and a business partner and now employs approximately 35 people.

Fortunately, much of the work that Seaway does with SMT has not been impacted significantly by COVID-19. Communication between the two companies is already largely electronic. Thus far, supplies are accessible, though they are beginning to notice increased prices for certain products (such as masks and hand sanitizer), and a bit more difficulty sourcing items that have been affected by reductions in production in China. Delivery of supplies to vessels hasn’t changed much other than restricted entry on certain ships.

The biggest negative impact has been on the staff and its morale. Thankfully, Seaway’s employees are all healthy at this point, but those who are working remotely (the office staff as opposed to the warehouse staff) have struggled with being distanced from their colleagues. They are a close-knit group and miss the dynamic that is present in the office. However, Bernt is “extremely proud” of how they have all adapted to the difficult situation “and the spirit they have to fight it”. “Both SMT and Seaway, but also our other customers and our suppliers, have adapted amazingly well to the new environment. By being creative, inventive and flexible, but keeping strictly to the regulations, there are no major changes in our operating procedures which affect our delivery process.”

SMT continues to be amazed at the ingenuity and energy of its staff and partners, and is grateful to all who are working so hard to maintain the company.


Yeoman Bontrup at night

Yeoman Bontrup at night