Crew on cruise vessel Mein Schiff 3 (IMO 9641730) have expressed anger at their employer TUI Cruises after being kept quarantined on the vessel in Cuxhaven, Germany.
There have been complaints relating to pay, health and a lack of communication facilities, reported Deutsche Welle, citing interview with several crew members.
The 2,900 crew members on board effectively have been isolated for several weeks. A plan last week to transfer at least some of the crew to sister vessel Mein Schiff 6 was abandoned due to logistical issues.
Cuxhaven police said that officers attended the ship on May 2nd at a time when crew frustration looked set to boil over. Since then the atmosphere was reported to have become more calm.
TUI Cruises has blamed the delays in evacuating the crew to shifting circumstances because of Covid-19.
On March 23rd TUI Cruises brought the crew members from several ships together onto the Mein Schiff 3. The plan was to take them back to Germany and from there repatriate them to their various home countries.
Initialy all went well and the ship docked in Cuxhaven on April 28th. However, on April 30th one of the people on board tested positive for Covid-19. The ship thus became a quarantine zone.
TUI Cruises has said that it does not know how the virus got on board.
In the month between deciding to take all the crew back to Cuxhaven and actually getting them there, several countries imposed travel restrictions, and the number of commercial flights available fell by more than 90%.
Nine crew members in total tested positive for the virus. One was taken to the Helios Klinik in Cuxhaven, while the rest self-isolated on the ship. All were now symptom free.
That left 2,900 people seafarers on a 300-metre ship with little to do and internet speeds referred to as “slow”.
Because there were no customers, TUI asked the crew to switch to a basic wage while remaining on board the ship. Some crew complained to Deutsche Welle that their contracts were altered and that payment dates were uncertain. Communication from TUI to the crew was criticized as inadequate.
TUI Cruises said in response that staff had been moved to a union-agreed contract and that only 50 members of the crew were receiving room and board alone.
It said that global travel restrictions were behind the decision to try to send the entire crew home from Cuxhaven, but those very restrictions had served to complicate matters further.
TUI said that rapidly changing circumstances had made it more difficult to get solid information to pass on to staff. “We know how unsatisfactory that is at times for crew members. We’re sorry about that. We really are trying to inform the crew comprehensively and immediately when there are new developments,” TUI Cruises said.
TUI Cruises is finally managing to send significant numbers of the crew home. On May 8th there were several chartered flights to Ukraine. More flights have been scheduled for 1,200 of the staff.
A further 164 crew members were repatriated from Cuxhaven on May 9th, among them 83 Tunisians and 69 Turkish nationals. More departures were planned for May 10 and 11. Three chartered air craft were scheduled to take 824 crew members to Indonesia.
2014-built, Malta-flagged, 99,256 gt Mein Schiff 3 is owned and managed by TUI Cruises GmbH of Hamburg, Germany. ISM manager is Celebrity Cruises Inc of Miami, Florida. It is entered with UK Club (Area Group E1 EMEA) on behalf of TUI Cruises GmbH.