Seafarers “stranded” at sea as cruise ships can find no place to dock

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has warned that thousands of crew on cruise ships were stranded at sea as ports deny vessels permission to dock as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ITF has estimated that around 314 of 385 cruise ships that are owned and operated by the major cruise lines were currently laid up. Many of the vessels have hundreds of crew onboard as governments refuse to allow them to disembark and transit through their ports and airports for repatriation.

Carnival Corporation said in a filing on March 31st that there were “approximately 6,000 passengers onboard ships still at sea that are expected to disembark their passengers by the end of April. Some of our crew is unable to return home, and we will be providing them with food and housing”.

The ITF said that affiliated seafarers’ unions had been working with the ITF and their social partners to get the seafarers repatriated, but travel and port restrictions that governments had implemented had made this impossible. And there was currently no solution in sight.

ITF Cruise Ship Task Force chair Johan Øyen said that “this is not a sustainable situation. Seafarers have the right to be treated with the same decency and dignity as everyone else. Governments have to ‘do the right thing’ and ensure that the thousands of men and women that have provided their services to the world’s cruise passengers are shown the same compassion and be allowed to return home.”