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ITF secures repatriation of 250,000 cruise sector seafarers

Seafarer unions working in collaboration with the cruise industry have achieved the repatriation of 250,000 cruise sector seafarers, although the crew change crisis has still left 300,000 stranded on other vessel types

Crew change crisis has shown the best of unions and employers, ITF official insists

SEAFARER unions working in collaboration with the cruise industry have achieved the repatriation of almost 250,000 cruise sector seafarers, although the crew change crisis has still left 300,000 stranded on other vessel types, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

Cruise company employees in capacities ranging from catering, hospitality, and entertainment to deck and engine officers and ratings were caught out when governments starting imposing travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dave Heindel, chair of the seafarers’ section of the ITF, said: “On the one hand, we have seen governments shamefully shutting their doors to seafarers as port states, transit countries and even the home countries of seafarers, when really they should have done everything within their power to get seafarers on cargo and cruise ships home.

“On the other hand, this pandemic has shown the best of unions and many employers who have tried their hardest for these seafarers in really difficult circumstances.”

ITF unions have been working around the clock since March to co-ordinate visas, flights and travel exemptions for seafarers to get home to their families, Mr Heindel went on to say.

“While this is a fantastic result in the cruise industry, we need to remember that there remain about 300,000 seafarers trapped working over their contracts on board cargo vessels, some as much as 16 months, well over their eight to nine months as expected.”

Governments should make practical exemptions to restrictions on seafarers’ travel and transit so that the industry can see a return to functional crew changes, he said.

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