Philippines repatriates over 13,000 distressed seafarers

A group of 668 seafarers landed today at an airport in Manilla, the Philippines, breaking the 13,000 figure of repatriated seafarers who were displaced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest wave is the second of three groups planned to arrive today in the country’s capital as part of a massive governmental campaign to return the affected seafarers home.

The Philippines is considered to be one of the world’s biggest suppliers of seafarers on international ships and the pandemic has left thousands of its sailors stuck on merchant and cruise ships unable to return homes amid globally imposed travel restrictions.

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 Philippine Embassy in Washington DC coordinated the repatriation of the seafarers who were stranded in Miami, USA and in Barbados, in close cooperation with the repatriates’ local manning agency, CF Sharp, and cruise line companies, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Spirit and Oceania Cruises.

The country has also been working on repatriating its seafarers from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

The repatriation wave comes amid rising calls for countries and port authorities to facilitate crew changes and enable the stranded mariners to return to their homes.

In particular, cruise liner companies have been urged to pay for the transfers of their healthy non-essential crew members as cruise ships halt their global operations to curb the pandemic.

In the latest round of flights, 440 Filipino seafarers were repatriated from Norwegian Gateway, 228 from Costa Fascinosa and two more groups comprising 252 seafarers are expected to arrive later this afternoon.

Over the past few weeks, the Foreign Affairs Department of the Philippines welcomed home the Filipino crew members of MS Norwegian Epic, MS Marina, MS Norwegian Spirit, MS World Explorer, MS Sirena, MS Norwegian Dawn, MS Norwegian Encore, MS Nautica, MS Norwegian Jade and MS Seven Seas Voyager among numerous others.

Once repatriated, seafarers are either kept in mandatory facility-based quarantine or sent to quarantine at home for at least 14 days before reuniting with their families.