Distraught at sea

Distraught at sea

COVID-19 ban leaves Jamaican crew members stranded aboard ship

Senior staff reporter

Monday, April 06, 2020

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SEVERAL Jamaican crew members on-board the Marella Discovery 2 were reportedly moved to tears over the weekend after a request for permission for them to disembark the cruise ship went unanswered by the Jamaican Government.

Marella Discovery 2 — which made a historic call to Port Royal in January — stopped in Jamaican waters on Thursday to refuel, with approximately 45 Jamaicans aboard.

The request was made by the ship's captain on behalf of the Jamaicans, but with no response forthcoming from the Government the Jamaicans were told that the company had no other option but to move on.

Two government sources with knowledge of the situation, but who are not authorised to speak, confirmed to the Jamaica Observer that the request was sent, but both stressed that Cabinet's hands were tied.

On Friday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced an extension of last month's travel restrictions on incoming passengers by a further 14 days, as his Administration fights to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 in the country.

The travel restrictions first took effect on March 24.

“I feel torn. I feel disappointed, because I think that most of us would not mind if the Government had accepted us and put us in quarantine. We would not mind, because at the end of the day we would be in Jamaica, on Jamaican soil, and that is what really matters to us,” cabin stewardess Elizabeth Daley told the Observer in a telephone interview yesterday.

Efforts to contact Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

Daley explained that the cruise ship arrived in Jamaican waters shortly after 7:00 am on Thursday for refuelling, at which time the company reached out to the Jamaican Government for “negotiations”.

She said that they spent the rest of the day awaiting a response from the Government, which had given deadlines for when a response would be provided.

She further explained that, having not heard from the Government by Friday at 11:00 am, the company again reached out and was told that a response would be forthcoming by 1:00 pm.

“They didn't [respond]. So, at that time the captain said he had to pull the plug. He had to leave, so that's when we left Jamaica, about 4:00 pm on Friday,” said Daley.

The crew has been at sea since March 12, when the ship made port in Costa Rica.

With no word from the Government she said the captain set sail for the Dominican Republic, whose Government had agreed to accept its nationals on-board the vessel after successful negotiations.

The ship arrived at the Spanish-speaking island on Saturday, at approximately 7:30 pm.

“Everybody is sad. A lot of persons, including myself, yesterday (Saturday) when we saw the crew members disembarking we could not hold back the tears, because it could have been us if the Government had made a different decision; that could have been us disembarking,” Daley, who is from south Manchester, said.

Up to press time yesterday, the Dominican Republic had more than 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 77 deaths. Seventeen people have recovered from the infectious disease in that country.

The cruise ship is now on its way to Lisbon, Portugal, where the Jamaicans are expected to disembark.

With a population of over 10 million people, the southern European country has just over 11,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with fewer than 300 deaths. A total of 75 people have so far recovered.

“I spoke to the captain today because I wanted to know if there is even a small possibility of them turning around, just in case the Jamaican Government changed its mind about accepting us. The captain said, 'No.' They would not be able to turn around because it would cost the company too much for fuel.

“So, as Jamaicans, what we need to focus our energy on now is to try and get help from friends in Government, if we have any, or family in Government. He said that we should focus our energy on them helping us to get home from Europe,” Daley stated, adding that countries such as the Philippines and India are making preparations to send for crew members who are their citizens.

“Presidents and prime ministers from various countries who have crew members on-board are sending for their people. Why has Jamaica turned its back on us in a time when we need your help the most? Please help us,” she stressed.

The prime minister has advised that Jamaicans overseas should “shelter in place”.

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