After six months stranded at sea, dozens of cruise crew members are finally being allowed back on land.
More than 100 seafarers for the Mediterranean Shipping Co., working on three vessels moored off the coast of Brazil, were stranded aboard the ships over lengthy repatriation arrangements.
A spokesperson for the workers claimed that they had not been paid for that time, despite continuing routine maintenance of the ships.
“We are stranded on board for seven months without any salary, and it’s very tough for us because many of us have children, old parents to look after who are also desperately waiting for us,” one of the workers told the Guardian.
“Some of our colleagues recently lost their brother and father, which is really very hard to accept and more painful because they could not even see their face for a last time,” another crew member said. “In this situation our family really needs us.”
Crew members aboard the MSC Poesia had begun to protest their abandonment and made signs that read “Enough is enough” and “Send us home, our lives matter.” Meanwhile, staff aboard the MSC Musica and MSC Seaview, near São Paulo, are reportedly still at sea.
While declining to comment on unpaid wages, MSC, as well as their recruiting agency, Oceangoers, claim that they are working to repatriate the 101 individuals to the Republic of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean — its border reopened in June following the coronavirus outbreak. Food and medical support have been made available in the meantime.
Meanwhile, some cruise lines have already resumed operation amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Over 75% of our crew, who needed to return home, were safely repatriated by the end of May. And, as of today, we have now repatriated over 96%,” MSC said in a statement.
“We continue to work hard at every level, directly and through our manning agent on the ground engaging the Mauritian government at the highest level on behalf of our crew,” MSC said. “We hope to repatriate all the remaining Mauritian crew needing to return home from our vessels in the Brazil area by the middle of this month.”
Cruise Lines International Association, the largest global trade organization for the sea travel industry, said they could not estimate just how many workers remain stranded all over the world, including waters near Italy, the United Arab Emirates and the US.
However, the International Maritime Organization confirmed that they had counted more than 300,000 ship hands and marine personnel who could not be returned to their homes due to complex repatriation negotiations — indicating that cruise lines may be facing the same hurdle regarding their employees.
The shipping industry leaders are urging nations to consider this matter a “humanitarian crisis” and prepare for supply chain disruptions.
“The current rise in seafarer fatigue threatens the safety of maritime navigation,” reads a press release published Monday on the IMO website. “The efficient continuation of trade and the undisrupted functioning of supply chains will also be affected, because ships with fatigued seafarers cannot operate indefinitely.”