Between 40,000 to 50,000 Filipinos seafarers were stuck on board cargo ships and waiting for their replacement crews after international ports around the globe were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to migrant and recruitment expert Emmanuel Geslani.
Citing a report from the International Chamber of Shipping, Geslani said that Filipino seafarers were among the 150,000 seafarers working onboard various types of cargo ships that transport goods around the world are stuck on board their ships since April.
“These men and women are responsible for transporting 90% of the world’s trade. From the food that we eat to the clothes that we wear, pretty much everything we own was transported by a seafarer,” Geslani said.
He said these workers live and work onboard for months at a time, driving the ship, maintaining its machinery and loading and discharging cargo at ports around the world.
He said that because of the pandemic, between 40,000 to 50,000 Filipino seamen on board merchant ships are still stuck at sea as many cargo vessels are unable to disembark their crews and take on new crews as the Covid 19 pandemic has closed many ports all over the world.
“They are still onboard cargo ships as countries across the world have imposed lockdowns, shut borders and suspended international flights to curb the spread of the new coronavirus,” he said, saying merchant ship crews have become unintended collateral damage.
Geslani called on the Maritime Industry officials to coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs to repatriate the Filipino seamen who comprised one-third of the world’s shipping crews.
“So far the Department of Foreign Affairs and the manning agencies have repatriated 30,000 Filipino crews from charter flights including the latest arrival from Barbados, Bahamas and from the Royal Caribbean Lines flown in by a special chartered flight of Philippine Airlines which landed at Clark International Airport Saturday noon, June 6,” he said.
He said another 8,000 crew members from 26 cruise ships also dropped anchor at Manila Bay to disembark Filipino seafarers who had to undergo a 14-day quarantine and swab tests by the Philippine Coast Guard before they were allowed to land ashore to go home to their provinces.
“Five cruise ships with at least 3,000 Filipino seafarers are expected to drop anchor in Manila this June to July,” Geslani said.