Over 100 Indian Seafarers Stuck in Manila Beg To Return; Start Hunger Strike

Approximately 100 Indian seafarers have been stuck off the coast of Philippines on the Holland America cruise ship MS Noordam, waiting for repatriation to India.

Apparently, the crew members have been stuck on board for 3 months now, with their repatriation flight getting cancelled at the final moment.

Four of the crew members staged a hunger strike after the chartered flight scheduled to carry them on Saturday got suspended.

The prospects of the crew members reuniting with their family got crushed once again, and uncertainty looms over their heads now as to when they will be repatriated.

Holland America, the owner of MS Noordam, is a British -American owned cruise line and is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation and plc.

Seafarers silhouette
Image for representation purpose only. Image Credits: seafarerswelfare.com

The company told it’s employees that as Mumbai airport was scheduled to receive hundreds of repatriation flights in the wake of Vande Bharat Mission spanning from June 20-26, there was increasing workload on the Airport authorities, but it would pressurize public quarantine centres.

To attract the interest of the Indian government, four seafarers on board the ship started a hunger strike.

“We are kindly requesting the government to help us reach our homes and families, ” one of the crew members could be heard saying.

Majority of those on board the ship are employees of several cruise lines, hailing from different countries. They’ve been sent to MS Noordam to put up crew members who got stuck during the pandemic.

“There is a lot of mental stress as we don’t know when we would be able to fly back.” said a stranded crewmember.

Contrary to the company’s narrative, the Indian government authorities said that they haven’t withheld any permission for any chartered flight landings.

A senior Indian official was quoted as saying, “Vande Bharat flights to Mumbai have increased in the last few days, but there’s no shortage of quarantine facilities for repatriation flights.”

Indian seafarers account for an enormous 10% of the global seafaring workforce, making it the third-largest country to account for the global chunk.
The 45.6 billion USD cruise industry has been hard hit by the COVID outbreak. With an approximated 40,000 crew members employed in the industry still stuck onboard worldwide, it is to see how company officials keep their promise of crew evacuation by June end.

Reference: mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com

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