Costa Cruises gives Filipino, Chinese crew members a lift home

Costa Venezia. Credit: HASENPUSCH, DIETMAR

A second Costa Cruises ship has sailed to Manila, the Philippines, to bring Filipino crew members home amid the difficulties of COVID-19-related travel restrictions. Costa Venezia arrived on 28 June 2020, days after bringing 310 Chinese crew members home via Shekou port in Guangdong Province, China.

Similar to many cruise ships worldwide, Costa Venezia was stopped in its tracks when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in January 2020. Governments began closing their ports to cruise ships to stem the spread of the contagious and potentially fatal respiratory ailment.

On 26 January 2020, the second day of the Chinese New Year holidays, after nearly 5,000 passengers disembarked in Shekou, Costa Venezia joined the rest of its company’s ships in suspending operations.

Thereafter, Costa Venezia sailed to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ (MHI’s) yard in Nagasaki, Japan, undergoing repairs and maintenance until 26 March.

As COVID-19 caused governments to impose international travel restrictions, this made crew change difficult. Consequently, 734 Costa Venezia crew members have worked past their stipulated contractual terms.

The ship was able to call at Shekou again on 24 June, to allow Chinese crew members to disembark, after China’s Ministry of Transport  permitted Chinese seafarers to disembark in the country. The disembarked crew still have to serve another 14-day quarantine, as is required by the Chinese government.

Earlier this month, another Costa Cruises vessel, Costa Atlantica, arrived in Manila to bring Filipino crew members home. The vessel had suffered a COVID-19 outbreak in late April; of its 600 crew, 149 contracted the virus after allegedly leaving the vessel – it had entered MHI’s Nagasaki yard for repairs. Nearly 500 of the crew members, including Filipino and Chinese nationals, were repatriated by their governments after testing negative.

According to Reuters, Manila Bay has become the world’s largest parking garage for cruise ships, with at least 20 such vessels moored off the coast. Subsequently, more than 5,300 crew on board are awaiting approval to return home. Cruise lines’ ships that are anchored in Manila Bay include P&O, Cunard, and Costa Cruises. The Philippines is the largest source of seafarers and with the cruise industry facing an uncertain near-term future, many of the affected crew members are wondering when they will be re-employed.