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Port authorities in UK board cruise ships over fears for crew welfare – The Guardian

PortandTerminal.com, June 19, 2020

LONDON – England’s The Guardian Newspaper is reporting that British port authorities have boarded six cruise ships anchored near London and Bristol amid “serious concerns” over the welfare of almost 1,500 crew stranded because of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the vessels, the Astoria, has been temporarily detained following reports to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) that it was planning to leave the country without repatriation secured for the crew.

“We will always take reports around crew welfare seriously and we have used our powers as the port state control authority to carry out this detention so that we can investigate more fully.” Katy Ware, IMO

Hundreds of crew members have been stranded in Tilbury Docks in the Thames estuary for months since cruises to Iceland and elsewhere were cancelled as the Covid-19 crisis deepened.

There have been unverified reports of hunger strikes, with Indian crew members making a direct appeal to India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, to intervene. One person has died of a heart attack, the ships’ owners said.

The All India Seafarer and General Workers Union wrote to the Indian foreign office three days ago saying that “in the coronavirus outbreak our Indian citizens [are] stuck in foreign waters from past 90 days and need help”.

The ships’ owner, Cruise and Maritime Voyages, said this week that 50 out of 262 crew members on the Astoria had “commenced a strike, including no longer performing routine maintenance work onboard”.

Vast majority of European crew have been repatriated

“Our crew have endured a prolonged period quarantined on board our ships during lockdown and are understandably anxious and distressed” with many unable to fly home due to global travel restrictions, said Christian Verhounig, CMV’s chief executive. He said the “vast majority of European crew had been repatriated” and the group was in “high-level talks with Indian and other international governments” to try to resolve the repatriation problem. Some crew would travel back to Myanmar this Sunday, he added.

It said it was working hard to repatriate the crew and its “thoughts and sympathies” lay with staff stranded onboard since March “through no fault of their own”. In reply to allegations that some crew had gone on hunger strike, it said that all members of staff were eating.

The company said 1,449 crew were onboard the six ships.

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