Three months after the start of the cruise industry shutdown, an estimated 40,000 cruise ship crewmembers remain stranded on board, according to the Miami Herald – including many who are aboard without pay.
The number reflects an extraordinary global repatriation effort involving ship-to-ship transfers and transoceanic crew-only voyages. Just a month ago, the paper estimated the number of cruise crewmembers stuck at sea at 100,000 seafarers worldwide.
With limited access to seaports and to air travel, many cruise lines have deployed their own ships to carry crewmembers home. In Manila Bay, more than 20 cruise ships gathered late last month and started the 14-day onboard quarantine period required for disembarking Filipino crewmembers.
A limited number of port states have allowed cruise lines to transfer crews to shore and fly them home, but the restrictions are stringent. The United States permits crewmember repatriation travel, but only with private ground transportation, private charter flights and a legally-binding contract stating that the company’s top executives are liable for non-compliance.
COVID-19 detected aboard Enchantment of the Seas
Onboard coronavirus cases are a continuing concern for a small number ships. Over 300 Trinidadian crewmembers aboard the cruise ship Enchantment of the Seas are quarantined off Port of Spain prior to repatriation, and six of them have tested positive for COVID-19, the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health said Sunday.
Enchantment of the Seas arrived in Trinidad on Friday, and her 306 Trinidadian crewmembers are required to complete a 14-day quarantine period and coronavirus testing before disembarkation. Early Sunday, the ministry of health confirmed that it had identified one case of coronavirus on board the vessel. The ministry announced five more cases on Sunday evening.
Trinidad and Tobago recently eliminated COVID-19, and the new cases bring its active national count back up to six. Its total since the start of the pandemic – including those who have since recovered – stands at 123. According to the ministry, the cases on board Enchantment of the Seas pose no risk of local transmission to the shoreside population.