More than 50,000 Filipino crew members on board 100 cruise ships in Europe, America and in Asia are expected to come home in the coming months after major cruise operators have stopped operations and headed towards their respective ports in USA and Europe, according to a statement issued by migrant expert Emmanuel Geslani.
Quoting a Maritime Executive magazine report, Geslani said that major cruise operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland America, Celebrity, Costa and MSC lines have stopped operations and 100 cruise ships are now at home ports or still at sea heading towards ports in the USA or Europe.
On board those cruise ships are more than 50,000 Filipino OFWs who comprise most of the time one-third of the ship crew whose jobs are now at risk due to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which has badly hit the cruise industry.
Repatriation of Filipino OFWs who are the frontliners on cruise ships like waiters/waitress, bar attendants, cabin stewards, chefs and cleaners have started and will go on in the next two months.
Their principals, however, find it difficult to look for international flights that still fly to Asia into Manila and a problem too for their human resource departments on who to send home while the ships are still idling at port, Geslani said.
Many of the cruise operators had said that they don’t expect normal cruise operations to start till the middle of May while some have announced that June may be the best time to start cruising during the summer months of the Western world.
“Majority of Filipino seafarers contracts are 8-9 months so there is the Solomonic question of who they will send home or ask some of the crew to stay behind for the maintenance of the ships,” he said.
In a statement, Geslani said that Danica Crewing managing director Henrik Jensen called on ship operators to exercise caution when making crew changes during the coronavirus outbreak, and warned that seafarers face a bigger risk of catching the virus while they travel to and from their postings, adding “It is better to extend contracts where possible.”
“Some vessel operators think it is stressful for crews to stay onboard for longer. However, for those with contract lengths of four to seven months, or less, I think it is not a problem to stay longer, rather than risk becoming infected as they transit home, or to jeopardize the health of those remaining by potentially bringing infected seafarers on to the vessel in replacement,” he added.