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Long, anguished wait for stranded cruise ship sailors

THERE are around one thousand Filipino cruise ship crews allegedly suffering emotional and mental anguish over the long-delayed departure to join or board several Norwegian Cruise Line ships which were scheduled to start cruising last October.

Up to now, the stranded seafarers are staying in isolation like rooms at a few plush hotels in Metro Manila including Manila Hotel, Marriot, Fairmount, Heritage and Savoy Hotels since October when the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were mobilized by C.F. Sharp Crew Management Inc. the accredited manning agency of Norwegian Cruise Lines.

And, in October this year, the seafarers were supposed to be ready to depart for their cruise ships bound for the United States of America [USA] and other major cruise destinations.

However, the US Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) moved their schedule after issuing a new directive of “no cruise orders for US ports” with additional safeguards which prompted NCL to move their cruises from October to November and now the official word is NCL cruises will start by March 2021.

According to Recruitment Consultant Manny Geslani, the seafarers have sought the help of Rep. Eric Pineda (Pacman-Party List) who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Deployment, by sending a letter to POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia to look into the distressed OFWs staying in their hotel rooms for over 45 days already.

It was learned that the displaced Filipino seamen since their there first day of stay in the holding places were not allowed to leave their rooms.

The seafarers are not receiving salaries or allowances though they have signed their contracts with the cruise line. Salaries of seafarers only start upon embarkation of their ship.

As of now, the only request of the seafarers are, if the start of Norwegian Lines cruises are set for March, 2021, they be allowed to go home to their families to spend Christmas and New year.

And, if the eventual embarkation is confirmed the NCL send the Filipino seamen a return call order.

“The NCL is wasting our time. All of us are already bored and suffering from emotional and mental anguish. Instead of joining our family at home, we are here experiencing the long wait with uncertainty. We are losing our patience,” one of the Filipino crewmen said. By Willy M. Balasa