Almost 1,000 seafarers repatriated by Philippines crewing specialist as coronavirus impacts global shipping

Almost 1,000 seafarers stranded on cruise ships around the globe due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic are in the process of being repatriated to the Philippines.

CF Sharp Crew has today flown 445 seafarers into Manila on flights arranged by Norwegian Cruise Lines. A further 454 crew members are due to arrive home tomorrow (April 2).

“Seafarers are a key priority and we, along with our clients, are putting all our efforts into bringing them home and reuniting them with their loved ones at this difficult time,” said Roger Storey, Managing Director, CF Sharp Crew Management, Singapore.

The crew members who have arrived today did not pass through the airport building but instead were collected by buses waiting on the tarmac and taken straight to the Manila hotel where they will undergo compulsory quarantine. They were met there by CF Sharp staff who explained the rules to them and provided support.

Mr Storey praised the company’s cruise lines clients for their support in assisting seafarers to get home. He reported: “Norwegian Cruise Lines arranged two sweeper flights, which fortunately were not impeded by any ‘red tape’, and we have been able to fly in 445 seafarers today (April 1st) with 454 seafarers arriving tomorrow. We have reserved places for them all to undertake their compulsory 14-day quarantine.”

The Philippines-headquartered crew specialist already has 100 crew members currently undertaking a period of 14 days isolation in Manila before they may be reunited with their families.

Most merchant ships have suspended crew changes for the immediate future and Mr Storey says his firm is working with seafarers to enable them to obtain financial aid from the Philippine Government’s Support for Seafarers scheme, administered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

With the majority of airlines drastically reducing their flights and all Embassies suspending operations until further notice, Mr Storey says CF Sharp has suspended its crewing operations and all shore employees’ efforts are currently focused on supporting the company’s at-risk crew to return home.

The vast majority of Sharp’s staff in the Philippines are now working from home. Meanwhile the company’s offices in Manila are again being ‘deep cleaned’

Strictly enforced restrictions in the Philippines require people to self-isolate and observe curfews. Residents need approval from their local Barangay (village/district office) in order to leave their place of residence and there are frequent check-points where travellers must justify the reason for their journey. Proof of legitimate business travel must include company ID as well as a covering letter explaining the reason for the travel.

Mr Storey advised: “Returning Filipino seafarers need to be made aware of the changes to normal life and business and of course the necessity of keeping safe and avoiding unnecessary risks of exposure to Covid-19. We are all working together to keep everyone safe.”