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Satellite image showing cluster of cruise ships

Maritime Image of the Day: Satellite Photo of Cruise Ship Cluster Waiting it Out

PortandTerminal.com, May 8, 2020

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – Earlier this we week we ran a story about the pile-up of cruise ships in Manila Bay as the lines, one-by-one, drop off their Filipino crew members onboard – over 5,000 in total.

PHOTO: Philippine Coast Guard

Today’s “Maritime Image of the Day” is a photo taken from European satellite Sentinel-2 taken this week showing another cluster of cruise ships in the Bahamas waiting out the cruise industry shutdown.

Without paying passengers, it’s far cheaper for the cruise companies to idle their ships out at sea rather than pay dockage fees, so that’s exactly what they are doing.

The chart below shows what things look like from MarineTraffic.com’s perspective. You can make out distinct clusters of vessels as they anchor in groups. One highlight we had was spotting Virgin Cruise’s Scarlet Lady, due to have its maiden voyage on August 7, 2020

MarineTraffic chart
MartineTraffic.com (May 9, 2020)

CNN writes what it is like for crewmen trapped on the vacant luxury liners:

Isolated, denied the swift repatriations offered to passengers and, in some cases, made to endure tough conditions without pay, some of those sequestered at sea have been describing the bureaucratic tangle that has trapped them, often within meters of shore.

“I’m hoping we don’t get forgotten about, to be honest,” says MaShawn Morton, who works for Princess Cruises. “It seems like nobody cares what’s happening to us out here.”

As of May 5, there were over 57,000 crew members still aboard 74 cruise ships in and around US ports and the Bahamas and the Caribbean, according to the US Coast Guard. Many more hundreds were stuck on vessels elsewhere across the world’s oceans.

With no passengers to look after and their quarantines completed, the employees are left wondering why they haven’t been allowed home.

American Alex Adkins, a senior stage technician on Freedom of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship, has been waiting at sea since mid-March when the vessel’s guests were offloaded in Miami. “Since then, we’ve had no guests and we’ve just been floating off the coast of Barbados,” he says. 

For the first week, the crew took advantage of the Freedom of the Seas’ pool and the gym, enjoying facilities empty of guests. Then, they went into a mandatory two-week self-isolation, says Adkins.

Adkins tells CNN that crew members have since been told that they’re no longer considered working employees and they were paid out through the end of April.

CNN’s report does note that some repatriation efforts are beginning to take shape, but that exactly how they will play out for all the crewmen on board these ships remains unclear. The reality is, these big vessels need a sizeable crew onboard to exist, especially without a port to dock in. 

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