Seafarers recognised for work during COVID-19

The work of seafarers to ensure the flow of essential cargo such as food and medicine during the coronavirus [COVID-19] global pandemic has been highlighted as Samoa marked the “Day of the Seafarer”.

Samoa Shipping Services Ltd marked the day with a special programme with guest and Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papalii Niko Lee Hang giving the keynote address witnessed by Samoa Shipping Services staff as well as students from the National University of Samoa’s School of Maritime Training.

Papalii said seafarers have been at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the flow of essential goods such as food and medicine. 

"Seafarers have been at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic in the transport business playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods such as food, medicine and medical supplies," he said. "At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our seafarers were at sea working on cruise ships."

Recognising seafarers as key workers during the global pandemic, he said this year’s commemoration of the day recognises them as key workers and to provide them with support, assistance and travel options available to all key workers during the pandemic.

The Minister, mindful of the criticism that the Government has come under in recent weeks over calls for the repatriation of sailors currently stranded abroad, said Samoa Shipping Services continues to be in touch with them.

"Our government, through the Samoa Shipping Services, continues to maintain effective communication with our seafarers overseas," he added. "However, due to border restrictions in most countries where seafarers will have to transit, Samoa Shipping Services continues to maintain contact with and negotiate with the Mediterranean to ensure the safety and welfare of our seafarers.”

He concluded his speech by congratulating all Samoan seafarers serving onboard domestic vessels, which includes pilots, captains and crew on locally-based tugboats, particularly seafarers onboard foreign container and cruise ships worldwide. 

Seafarers Union President, Leitufia Fatu Lafoa'i, also touched on this year's theme to say that it recognises the work done by seafarers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He also spoke of the activities that are usually done annually to celebrate this event which unfortunately can't be done due to the pandemic.

"For this commemoration every year, we usually celebrate it through a parade, short story competitions and other activities but because of the COVID-19 pandemic we are unable to carry out all these," Leitufia added.

In an interview with Papali'i after the event, he said the Government had always wanted to bring home Samoan seafarers but there are a number of hurdles that need to be overcome.

"The Government has long wanted for all our seafarers to return home but the problem is, country borders are closed and we’re unable to transit them because they’ll be stuck in between countries with no one to fund for their accommodations," he said. "MSC Cruises had also wanted to release them to return to Samoa, but then they will most likely be stuck in a certain country creating more problems."

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