British port authorities have detained five cruise ships amid concerns over 1,500 crew members stranded on board CMV vessels.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement seen by The Guardian that the government will “not hesitate to continue to use every power within our control to safeguard the health and happiness” of the workers.
“The welfare of seafarers is of the utmost importance and we take any reports of safety concerns around crew incredibly seriously.”
The British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) reportedly detained five of six ships operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) that were inspected last Friday morning following concerns raised about crew members, some of whom had been stranded in Essex for more than three months.
“Surveyors found a number of expired and invalid seafarers employment agreements, late payment of wages and crews who had been on board for over 12 months,” the MCA said, according to The Guardian.
“All these are in breach of the Maritime Labour Convention and the ships have been detained for that reason.”
Reports have been circulating about crew members of CMV vessels engaging in hunger strikes, having wages paid late and the death of one Indian crew member.
This follows deaths of several crew members last month on board other cruise ships as concerns mounted over the mental health of cruise workers still at sea amid the COVID-19 standstill.
A spokeswoman from CMV told Travel Weekly only one crew member has died on board a CMV vessel since the COVID-19 outbreak. The crew member is believed to have died of a heart attack.
Despite most European crew members being repatriated, there are still many workers from Indonesia, Myanmar and India stranded on the ships.
The All Indian Seafarers Union has posted a photo of a letter to the Indian government on Twitter pleading for them to repatriate 164 Indian citizens on the Astoria in Tilbury Port.
— All India Seafarers Union (@AllSeafarers) June 18, 2020
CMV shared a statement with Travel Weekly confirming Astor, the Columbus, Astoria, Vasco de Gama and the Marco Polo were detained “after the MCA identified some issues relating to expired crew contracts and crew being onboard in excess of 12 months”.
“Both issues occurred as a result of the enforced lockdown period and the COVID-19 travel restrictions,” the line said.
“The MCA also identified recent temporary delays in the payment of wages (which were due within the last week) and were immediately corrected by CMV.
“The inspection onboard Magellan identified the same issues, but the vessel was not detained and was given 14 days to rectify them.”
CMV CEO Christian Verhounig said the line has been in “high-level talks” with the Indian High Commission as well as other countries to obtain special landing permits and repatriate the remaining crew members.
Our crew have endured a pro-longed period quarantined on board our ships during lockdown and are understandably anxious and distressed as a result,” Verhounig said.
“We fully sympathise with and understand our crew’s frustration and upset at being held under quarantine conditions onboard our ships due to the local restrictions imposed.”
“We hope this issue has raised awareness of the plight of our crew with the various embassies and that they will now assist CMV with the repatriation of crew members.
“We are confident that with the sudden increase in support and help we will be able to repatriate the remaining crew ideally before the end of the month.”
Featured image: Twitter/All Indian Seafarers Union