Philippines repatriates more than 13,000 distressed seafarers

A group of 668 seafarers landed at a Manila airport in the Philippines on Easter Monday April 13th, bringing to more than 13,000 the number of repatriated seafarers who had been displaced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest wave is the second of three groups planned to arrive this week in the city as part of a massive governmental campaign to return home all affected seafarers. Filipinos make up a significant number of the global shipping industry’s crew, with a particularly large number on cruise ships. With a lockdown of varying degrees of severity being imposed globally, it had proved difficult to arrange crew transfers after their scheduled period on a vessel expired. Normally they would disembark at a port and fly home, or remain at that port until their next contract period began. But in recent weeks many of them had been refused permission to disembark.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said earlier that the government would try to reach everyone and leave no-one behind.

The repatriation was coordinated by the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC The seafarers had been stranded in Miami, USA and in Barbados, mainly on cruise ships.

The local manning agency, CF Sharp, and cruise line companies, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Spirit and Oceania Cruises, also helped with the repatriations.