Interview: Kristi Thomas, seafarer advocate talks crew change crisis

Krista Thomas, seafarer advocate. Credit: Krista Thomas

Crew trapped on ships are crying out for help. SAS talks to the people onshore answering that call and helping seafarers awaiting repatriation

Krista Thomas is lucky to get more than a few hours’ sleep each night. Since the COVID-19-induced pandemic lockdown in Canada ended, her day is divided into two times zones. Mornings she is up before dawn to check her messages from homesick crew stranded for months on cruise ships still at anchor around the world. Then she is off to her day job working for a Vancouver hotel developer.

“After work I either go to bed really late or get up in the middle of the night for an hour or so. That’s when all the crew are awake on the other side of the world,” she said. Thomas was five years at sea with Norwegian Cruise Line. It has been 10 years since she left the industry. “But when you are on a cruise liner, the people you are working with on board quickly become family,” she said. “We stay in touch.”

When the pandemic struck and Thomas saw the media giving passengers a lot of attention, she made it her mission to ensure the crew got attention too. During the initial lockdown in Canada, she was not working and devoted her whole day to the task.

At the peak of the lockdown, internationally almost 100,000 seafarers were stranded on cruise ships in virus limbo. Now most have returned, according to Cruise Lines International Association. Mauritian seafarers were among the last, with some 2,000 trapped on 21 otherwise empty passenger ships in 82 ports around the globe, until the Mauritius government began slowly lifting border restrictions in June.

This is an excerpt of the SAS November edition. To have access to the full article, and more SAS features, please subscribe here.