Sailors set course for opportunity
Samoan seamen like Semurana Ah Chong are choosing to return to work overseas despite the global coronavirus pandemic in search of a better future for their families.
The 24-year-old from Fa'ato'ia is among 60 sailors who have been approved for additional opportunities on the Mediterranean Shipping Company’s (M.S.C.) fleet overseas.
More than 300 Samoan seafarers are currently employed on various M.S.C. ships,
For sailors such as Mr. Ah Chong, it is because of the COVID19 that is pushing them to return to work rather than staying away from it.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer on Thursday, Mr. Ah Chong said he is more than happy to have the chance to work on a ship again.
"It is a joy for me to be able to have this opportunity. With the pandemic, the economy is going down and I am grateful to be able to get this opportunity to be able to work overseas and help our families here at home," he told the Samoa Observer.
"This choice to go was my own, it was the option I chose whole-heartedly with the good faith of my family. We pray and rely on God to give us the right choices"
This will be his fourth time deployed on an overseas contract, all of which were with the M.S.C.
Mr. Ah Chong was not fazed when questioned on whether he could face doubts after his contract is finished due to the closure of borders:
"If you have been away from family for as long as we have, you get used to it, as long as you're providing and helping out our families at home,” he said.
"I have the confidence to go because I have been doing this for a while. We all know what to do now and we have gotten used to what safety procedures are needed.
"Right in the beginning of [the] COVID-19 [pandemic], I was able to come home, and with the opportunity to return, I know I'll be able to keep myself safe from the virus again; I have been through it before.
"And if we end up going for three years in total, that's a great help for our families. As long as we rely on God for his protection, we are at ease."
Mr. Ah Chong thanked the Government for making opportunities available to local seamen to provide for their families.
Before his departure call Mr. Ah Chong wants to “spend as much quality time with family."
Last week, the Government revealed that the M.S.C. fleet had requested for additional 80 seamen from Samoa. Only 60 held valid U.S. visas, the Government-owned Savali paper stated.
Speaking on Thursday with a group of sailors currently on island, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, encouraged those who are chosen to make the most of the opportunity.
“Go with purpose and use the opportunity wisely to seek a better future for your families,” he said.
“We should also continue to seek out ways to enhance the skill and knowledge of our sailors to ensure the standard of Samoan sailors continues to increase, making working opportunities more accessible."
Tuilaepa said the most important quality for sailors to display was honesty while deployed at sea.
He encouraged the men to stay close to God, where they are most likely to stay honest and act accordingly. Tuilaepa made reference to scripture from the Book of Luke: "If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones."
On Wednesday he accused the Samoa Observer of misrepresenting the arrangement between the Governent and the sailors as coercive.