News Bulletin – 20 June 2020

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1. 1,452 seafarers stranded in US, Europe arrive in Goa.

19 June 2020 : A cruise ship carrying 1,452 seafarers docked at Goa’s Mormugao Port Trust on Thursday and the sailors are currently undergoing deboarding formalities and swab testing. “Seafarers numbering 1,452 arrived today for sign off at MPT, Goa.

Swab collection is going on,” the Chief Minister’s Office tweeted late on Thursday. The stranded sailors who arrived at the Goa port, were initially stranded in two different ports in US and Europe, but were pooled on one international cruiseliner and were ferried to Goa.

A Health Ministry official said that all the seafarers would be housed in the ship itself, until the results of their tests are formally declared. “Those who test positive and are symptomatic will shifted to the Covid hospital, those who are positive but are asymptomatic will be admitted to government Covid care centres and the rest will be sent to institutional quarantine facilities for the stipulated period,” the official said.

2. Crew change of Indian seafarers at VOC port crosses 200 mark.

19 June 2020 : Crew change of Indian seafarers through the VO Chidambaranar port at Thoothukudi has crossed the 200 mark to touch 202. The sign-on and sign-off of Indian crew through the port commenced on April 29 and, so far, 88 crew members have signed on and 114 crew have signed off on 32 occasions, said a press release from the port.

Covid tests and quarantine of crew were organised before sign-on and sign-off as per the standard operating procedure (SOP). Due to Covid restrictions, a large number of seafarers had to extend their service on board ships after spending many months at sea. They could not be replaced after completion of service period on board the ships. They need to be changed with a new set of seafarers to ensure compliance with the International Maritime Regulations to ensure safe ship operations, well-being of the crew and prevention of fatigue.

3. 18 Norwegian cruise ship staff return.

18 June 2020 : T&T nationals working as crew on various Norwegian Cruise Line ships returned home Wednesday and are serving out their quarantine at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) campus in Debe.

According to a source who was one of the 18 returning nationals, they were pooled together from their various vessels and brought into T&T waters aboard the Oceana Marina. Only one returning national was already stationed as crew aboard the vessel.

It arrived around 9 am and could be seen anchored a few kilometres off of the waterfront, North West of the Enchantment of the Seas ship which is being used to quarantine some 300 crew members of Royal Caribbean International. Around 2 pm, two tender boats were used to bring the crew to shore at the Cruise Ship Complex in Port-of-Spain. They docked at 2.30 pm and their temperatures taken, documents stamped and boarded a Ministry of National Security maxi to be transported to the UWI’s Debe campus where they would spend the next 14 days in mandatory quarantine and swabs taken for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

4. Stranded at sea: the crew members trapped on cruise ships.

18 June 2020 : Guardian US reporter Erin McCormick tells Rachel Humphreys why up to 80,000 crew are still stranded on cruise ships amid the coronavirus crisis. While most cruise ship passengers have now made it back to land, many crew workers are trapped, quarantined in tiny cabins, some without pay.

Crew members have said the experience has taken its toll on their mental health. Cruise companies have blamed strict rules from health authorities for not letting crew disembark.

Rachel hears from Will Lees, a Canadian who last October took a job as an art director on board the Norwegian Star cruise ship. When coronavirus hit in March, he found himself unable to get off. Shuffled between ships to await repatriation, he was eventually taken to Italy, where he was finally able to fly home. Perry, a Mauritian crew member, is still stuck on his boat. With two cases of coronavirus onboard, Perry and fellow crew have been confined to their cabins for months. He does not know when he will be allowed home and is worried about how his family, who depend on his salary to support themselves, are managing. He has not been paid a wage since March.

5. Nigerian seafarers bemoan disdain for local certificates.

18 June 2020 : Notwithstanding the massive investment in seafarers’ development by the Federal Government, the Nigerian crew is still facing severe discrimination due to preference for foreign certificates.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), had invested heavily in its National Seafarers Development Programme, (NSDP) scheme, but has been experiencing a delay in taking the cadets for sea time training. The Agency had blamed the scarcity of spaces for sea time training.

A Seafarer and Marine Engineer, Daniel Ikueyemi, said during an interview monitroted on Maritime TV, that the poor feedback mechanism at NIMASA has deprived the agency of the true impact of the investment in seafarers’ development.

6. Indian cruise ship crew stage second protest in three days.

17 June 2020 : Last Wednesday, 650 Indian cruise ship workers on Marella Cruises’ Explorer staged a demonstration on the upper deck of the ship ported off the coast of the UK, protesting conditions in which they have been held captive for over three months without a clear plan by their employer or their government for repatriation.

Since the cruise industry closed its doors to incoming customers on March 13 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, there have been thousands of ship workers who face similar conditions. The Miami Herald reported Sunday that “at least 42,000 workers remain trapped on cruise ships without paychecks, and some still are suffering from COVID-19, three months after the industry shut down.

Yesterday, another group of Indian workers on the Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ (CMV) MV Astoria staged a similar protest, submitting a Facebook video to the cruise crew advocacy news source Although the Crew-Center report described the event as a “hunger strike,” crew members participating in the strike declined to comment to the WSWS to confirm.

7. Shipping companies plan extra charters to bring 20,000 seafarers home.

17 June 2020 : Over 20,000 Indian seafarers are set to return home or join duties as shipping companies and maritime bodies plan additional charter flights. “Between May and July 1 we have facilitated 40 charter flights enabling travel of around 8,000 seafarers. We have received applications for another 10-15 charter flights,” said Captain Daniel J Joseph, Deputy Director General of Shipping.

Typically around 20,000 seafarers join merchant vessels or return to India each month as a part of their work contracts. But due to Covid-19 related lockdowns and travel restrictions the crew change process got delayed. Scheduled international flights from India are still suspended resulting in large back log in crew change. However the governement has allowed travel of seafarers on charter flights. Charter flights are also being used to bring home stranded employees of cruise liners and around 2500 of them have already returned home.

8. CDC Updates Guidance for Crew With Color-Coded Ship Status.

17 June 2020 : The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for the cruise ship industry and released its first color-coded status report on the individual cruise ships in U.S. waters. In releasing the update, the CDC highlighted that these efforts are focused on the safety and wellbeing of the crew members on the ships during the current “no sail” period and as they disembark.

The CDC, however, highlighted that the information was only for crew members, saying that meeting the current criteria does not mean cruise ships can resume passenger operations. “We don’t have enough information at this time to say when it will be safe to resume sailing with passengers. Cruise lines may need to establish additional safety measures before sailing with passengers is permitted to resume. CDC will continue to evaluate and update its recommendations as the situation evolves,” the statement said. It is unclear though how many crew members will be affected by the CDC’s updates as they pertain only to ships in U.S. waters.

9. USCG Offloads 150 Kilos of Cocaine in San Juan.

16 June 2020 : On Saturday, the crew of the fast response cutter Donald Horsley offloaded about 150 kilos of cocaine and handed over three suspected smugglers to federal law enforcement in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The seized drugs are estimated to have a wholesale value of more than $5.6 million. The three suspects are in U.S. custody and face criminal charges for drug smuggling.

The intercept began on the night of June 8. The crew of a Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft detected a go-fast vessel with three people aboard about 50 nautical miles southwest of Isla Saona, Dominican Republic. Sector San Juan directed the launch of an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to track the go-fast and diverted the cutter Winslow Griesser to carry out the interdiction.

Once on scene, the Winslow Griesser’s cutter boat stopped the go-fast and recovered three bales from the water nearby. The recovered bales tested positive for cocaine and weighed about 150 kilos.

10. 4000 Approved Crew Change Cases in Singapore during COVID-19 period.

16 June 2020 : Global shipping continues to operate 24/7 to bring food and essential goods to our homes. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) recognises the importance of seafarers and crew change to safeguard the health and safety of seafarers sailing on board ships.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, MPA continues to facilitate the disembarkation of seafarers on medical grounds, for compassionate reasons and for contracts which cannot be further extended. MPA also continues to facilitate medical treatment of seafarers who require emergency attention.

MPA has been working closely with other government agencies, unions, and the shipping industry to facilitate and support crew change. An industry taskforce led by the Singapore Shipping Association in partnership with Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union recently published the Singapore Crew Change Guidebook. The guidebook details a set of procedures for a “safe corridor” which allows crew change to be carried out in a safe environment to minimise any local public health risk and to the shipping community.

To date, MPA has approved more than 4,000 cases of crew sign-on and sign-off for over 300 companies since 27 March 2020. The cases involved some 500 ships that include tankers, bulk carriers, container ships and offshore vessels.

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