Dozens of Mauritian cruise ship crew who were stranded off Brazil's coast throughout the pandemic have started their journey home following desperate appeals to return.
A crew representing the 101 seafarers, who have been at anchor on 3 ships off Port Santos Brazil, said they hadn't been paid for over 6 months by MSC Cruises, one of the companies leading the return to operations. However, over the weekend, crew members on one of the vessels posted photos on social media of the preparations to disembark and begin their trip back home.
Some of the crew members had started a protest on the deck of MSC Poesia to demand repatriation, with banners “Send us home, our lives matter” and “Enough is enough”. Dozens of Mauritian crew members also remain stranded on MSC Musica and MSC Seaview off the Brazilian port close to Sao Paulo.
MSC Cruises said it was working hard to repatriate the crew and had provided medical support, food, and accommodation to everyone onboard the ships.
The group was among tens of thousands of workers who were left stranded at sea when the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck, even after travellers were allowed back to land.
The Mauritian crew members have been awaiting repatriation after the island nation reopened borders at the beginning of June 2020. They fear they had been caught in a blame game between the cruise company, their agency, and their government, over the repatriation costs.
The recruitment agency for MSC Cruises in Mauritius, Oceangoers, said flights had been booked for the crew members this week. The crew revealed they would continue their protest until they received formal confirmation of the journeys. On Sunday, September 13, social media posts by some of the seafarers showed they had halted their protest and had started the trip back home.
According to IMO (International Maritime Organization), there are 300,000+ seafarers and marine personnel currently stranded at sea, who are unable to be repatriated despite their contracts' expiry.
An MSC spokesperson said that more than 75% of their crew, who needed to return home, had been safely repatriated by the end of May 2020. As of today, they had repatriated more than 96%.