At-risk seafarers finally disembarked from COVID-infected cruise ship

After the disembarkation of cruise passengers, the crew was forced to remain on board despite the spread of virus.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), in coordination with Unión de Trabajadores del Transporte (UTT), has secured the disembarkation of seafarers on board the COVID-infected cruise ship Greg Mortimer, which has spent two months in confinement.  Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports             

On March 15, Greg Mortimer left the Port of Ushuaia, Argentina, four days after the World Health Organization decreed Covid-19 a pandemic.  A week later, the first symptoms appeared among the passengers.  Even so, they were refused disembarkation in Argentina and Chile because the governments had closed their borders and ports. 

With authorization from the Uruguayan government, the ship arrived on March 27 at the Port of Montevideo where an operation was carried out to land and repatriate the passengers.  

However, the crew was forced to remain on board despite the spread of the virus on the ship.  Of the 83 seafarers on board, 39 were tested positive for Covid-19.  Tragically one of them, a Philippine seafarer, died.

On April 20, after hearing about the large number of seafarers infected and confined in cabins without appropriate sanitary conditions, UTT general secretary Francisco del Gaudio reached out to help.  

According to reports from seafarers to UTT, internet connectivity was interrupted to prevent information from being leaked, including confirmation that two seafarers who were distributing food were infected, as well as the attempted suicides of some of the crew due to anxiety and uncertainty. 

Following distressing messages from the seafarers, ITF’s Italian affiliate, as the union holding the agreement, made repeated requests for information to the cruise ship company but they went unanswered.

In response to pressure from UTT, the Uruguayan government finally announced on 8 May that the 83 crew members would be allowed to disembark, quarantined and given appropriate medical care, and then repatriated.

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Lee Kok Leong

Lee Kok Leong

Kok Leong, executive editor, has overall editorial responsibility for the direction and focus of Maritime Fairtrade. He has two decades of working experiences, including holding senior regional roles in business-to-business (B2B) print and online publications. He enjoys his work as a journalist, and regards it as a calling.

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