Cruise ships anchored near London and Bristol have been boarded by British port authority today, in the latest cruise news. Almost 1,500 cruise crew have been stranded due to the coronavirus and there are said to have been “serious concerns” over their welfare. One of the vessels, the Astoria, is owned by Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV).
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The ship has been temporarily detained after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) received reports it was due to depart the UK without repatriation secured for the crew.
Hundreds of crew have been also left stranded in Tilbury Docks in the Thames estuary for months after cruises were cancelled.
According to unverified reports, some of the crew have carried out hunger strikes.
Ships’ owners say one person has died of a heart attack.
Indian cruise crew members are said to have made a direct appeal for help to India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Three days ago, the All India Seafarer and General Workers Union wrote to the Indian foreign office.
They requested repatriation of 164 crew members onboard the Astoria.
The letter, posted to Twitter, stated: “In the coronavirus outbreak our Indian citizens [are] stuck in foreign waters from past 90 days and need help”.
Cruise and Maritime Voyages have said the crew are frustrated at being unable to return home due to global travel restrictions.
They refuted claims of hunger strikes and said it was working hard to repatriate crew members.
A CMV spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) confirm that their vessels currently laid over in the UK in London Tilbury and Bristol Avonmouth were inspected by the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency on Friday 19th June. CMV has been cruising from British ports since commencing operations 10 years ago without any detentions and cooperated fully with the MCA’s inspections. The Astoria, Astor, Columbus,
“Both issues occurred as a result of the enforced lockdown period and the Covid-19 travel restrictions for some countries. They also identified recent temporary delays in the payment of wages, which were due within the last week and have already been corrected by CMV. The inspection onboard Magellan identified the same issues, but the vessel was not detained and was given 14 days to rectify them.
“The health, safety and welfare of all their passengers and crew is CMV’s top priority. CMV, as have many other cruise lines, has faced an unprecedented emerging humanitarian issue as many crew members became stranded on cruise ships as borders closed as a result of the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“CMV has worked hard to repatriate as many crew members as possible and has been unable to repatriate all crew members due to the travel restrictions. Approximately 200,000 seafarers around the world are still stranded on cruise and cargo ships and the issues CMV is experiencing in relation to crew contracts are the same for many other cruise lines.”
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The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) told Express.co.uk: “The IMO Seafarer Crisis Action Team is aware of this case and is liaising with the relevant authorities.”
IMO has described stranded cruise crew as “collateral victims of the [coronavirus] crisis.”
The organisation stated: We are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis and a real safety issue – we cannot expect seafarers currently on ships to stay at sea forever.
“Many have already been on tours of duty significantly longer than the 11 months agreed by ILO as the maximum length of seafarers’ contracts.
“It is the responsibility of governments to ensure seafarers and ships can continue moving, to enable the world to overcome and recover from the pandemic and keep the global economy afloat.”
IMO continued: “It is estimated that starting in mid-June 2020, as many as 300,000 seafarers each month will require international flights to enable crew changeovers. About half of them (150,000) will need to be repatriated home by aircraft while the other half will join ships. Additionally, around 70,000 cruise ship staff are currently waiting for repatriation.
“On any given day, nearly one million seafarers are working on some 60,000 large cargo vessels worldwide.”
The MCA said of the Astoria’s detention: “The detention is a preventative measure in line with UK regulations, in order that a full inspection of the ship related to the maritime labour convention can be carried out before its intended departure.
“It cannot leave the port until the inspection is completed.”
“Five other ships in the same company – Global Cruise Lines Ltd – four others based at Tilbury and one at Bristol are also being inspected.
“Acting as the port state control authority for the UK, the MCA has taken this action following a number of serious concerns which were raised about the welfare of the crew.”
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said: “The welfare of seafarers is of the utmost importance and we take any reports of safety concerns around crew incredibly seriously.
“Following today’s investigation, five ships have been detained and we will not hesitate to continue to use every power within our control to safeguard the health and happiness of every seafarer currently working in the UK.”
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