Shipping C.E.O. provides update on stranded Samoan sailors

The Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Shipping Services (S.S.C.), Lautimuia Uelese Vaai, has confirmed that most of the 323 Samoans currently working abroad as sailors on overseas vessels have been re-employed.

Lautimuia provided the update in response to questions from the Samoa Observer as families continue to express concern at the inability of the Government to fly the sailors home.

Out of the 323 sailors, the C.E.O. said only 19 are still awaiting confirmation of their re-employment.

“Patience is the virtue, and holding strong onto our faith in God Almighty that there will always be sunshine after rain, and our lives will be back to normal in God’s time. This pandemic will never destroy us and our faith,” he said.

Asked if sailors currently abroad can be brought home, Lautimuia said that cannot happen until Samoa’s international borders re-open. 

“Negotiations are ongoing at this point on this matter, there is a lot at stake and to consider, safety is still our top priority.”

Asked if any more Samoan sailors had contracted COVID-19, the C.E.O. said no.

In mid-May this year, Lautimuia confirmed when contacted by the Samoa Observer that three Samoan sailors were exposed to the virus in April while working on cruise ships.

“They had very mild symptoms and have recovered,” Lautimuia said at that time. “Blood tests for the three men came back positive and were straight away put in quarantine on a different floor of the cruise ships they were on.”

He said the three sailors had mild symptoms of the virus and were closely monitored while in quarantine. Follow-up tests on the trio, who were working on different ships, came back negative and they have since recovered.

The Samoa Observer understands that those local sailors who were re-employed are working on a reduced rate, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and its impact on the global economy including shipping.

But one of the sailors working abroad, who did not want to be identified, said they were just happy to get their jobs back.

Last month some sailors, who are struggling to find employment in the country, appealed to the Government to allow them to travel overseas for work.

But Lautimuia said the S.S.S. is not prepared to take a chance on their safety due to the risks associated with COVID-19 infection.

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

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