Safety first, Government tells sailors looking for work

Safety first. That's the message from the Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Shipping Services (S.S.S.), Lautimuia Afoa Uelese, in response to concerns by some local sailors that they should be allowed to venture overseas for work.

A sailor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity fearing repercussions on his employment prospects, said he was among sailors who have approached S.S.S. for a chance to leave the country for work.

“We heard that there were 80 job opportunities on one of the ships and we thought we wanted to try because obviously, it’s hard to find a job locally these days," he said.

"But our request was declined. We’re not concerned we understand where the management is coming from. In fact, we were just going there to see if it was possible but I guess it’s not.”

But Lautimuia said S.S.S. is not prepared to take a chance on the safety of local sailors given the coronavirus pandemic.

“There will always be employment opportunities on ships but under the circumstances there's a lot to consider carefully before making decisions o deployment and safety of our seafarers is top of the list,” he added.

Lautimuia in a previous interview with this newspaper also emphasized that overall the global pandemic period, the safety of the sailors has to be the paramount concern.

Later in June, thirty-six Samoan sailors who faced uncertainty following the COVID-19 global pandemic were re-employed by their employers on the various cruise and cargo vessels.

A 26-year-old seafarer from Vaoala, Fuisami Petelo Sheck, told the Samoa Observer at that time in a telephone interview that some of the affected sailors are on the MSC Seaside cruise ship which he currently works on. 

"They're all doing fine including us who still have jobs, though our payments have been cut short, but at least we're still getting money," he said. "But for the other Samoan brothers who have been laid off, they're adjusting well here, we're all safe from the Covid-19.”

The re-employment of the 36 sailors brings down the number of unemployed seafarers to 49. Currently, there are 303 Samoans who remain out at sea with 259 on cruise ships, 64 on cargo vessels and 49 without a job.

Currently, sailors who completed their contracts and have returned to the country are either by their families' plantations or looking for local jobs.

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