Two more cruise ship workers die whilst awaiting repatriation home

In the midst of a crewing crisis in the shipping industry, the ITF today expressed its profound regret at the reported suicide of two more cruise ship workers.

Two more cruise ship workers die whilst awaiting repatriation home
Photo: Princess Cruises

As ITF informed, the deceased are young female seafarer on board Princess Cruises-operated Regal Princess and a young crewmember of the Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.

The Regal Princess arrived in Rotterdam on May 6 for the final phase of the repatriation process, and seafarers on board including the deceased woman were scheduled to return home on a charter flight on Friday, May 8, but the flight was cancelled. Crew members were told that the next available flight was on May 12, but tragically the woman jumped from the ship and died after her chartered flight home was cancelled.

Due to the shortage of international air travel and government restrictions, and ports applying additional restriction to seafarers working on cruise ships, getting seafarers home is very challenging and thousands of cruise ship workers have been forced to remain on board their ships.

David Heindel, ITF seafarers’ section chair, said:

“The stress associated with social isolation for seafarers can be tough even in normal times, but what we are seeing through the Covid-19 pandemic is the tragic consequences that heightened stress and uncertainty is having on seafarers’ mental health. Seafarers are being penalised by the strict restrictions put in place by governments to contain the spread of the virus despite no justification or scientific proof that seafarers on cruise vessels pose any greater risk than other categories of workers or members of the public.” 

Approximately 150,000 seafarers are currently waiting to leave or join ships, with tens of thousands currently trapped onboard ships across the globe due to the continuing imposition of travel restrictions.

Seafarers’ unions are calling for the same response from government who facilitated the repatriation of tens of thousands of passengers in a matter of weeks from cruise ships around the world.

Heindel said:

“It’s time for crews to be treated as humanely as passengers were. The ITF and our social partners warned just last week that failure to do so risks the wellbeing of seafarers, maritime safety, as well as the supply chains that the world relies on. Time has come to get these seafarers home before we see more people taking their lives.”

Four crew members have now reportedly ended their lives in less than two weeks. On May 9, a Carnival team member from Hungary died on board the Carnival Breeze with his fellow crew members finding him dead in his cabin. This followed the death of a Royal Caribbean crew member from Poland who jumped overboard from the Jewel of the Seas on April 30.

Heindel said:

“For the sake of seafarers’ health and mental wellbeing, it is now absolutely vital that governments and flag states redouble their efforts to facilitate the return home of all seafarers who are suffering a terrible burden at the present time. Our service to the global economy should not be taken for granted.”