Leaked email "sabotage": Samoa Shipping

The Government has condemned as "sabotage" a leaked email in which an international cruise company threatens to stop hiring Samoans because of the Government refusing to fly them home during the pandemic. 

A leaked email from the Meditteranean Shipping Company (M.S.C.) suggests that the Government’s refusal to pay to fly home 320 Samoan nationals at sea will result in the company no longer hiring Samoan sailors because they are more expensive than other companies. 

"[The] Samoa Government is not able to guarantee repatriation for its seafarers. We will not accept such conditions,” a photograph of an e-mail signed by the M.S.C.’s crew manager Rocco Maresca reads.

The email was first reported on by veteran New Zealand journalist Michael Field but a copy was obtained by the Samoa Observer. 

“All [these] matters will determine our decision to not employ Samoan screw members anymore and we are seriously considering to close down our cooperation with [the] Samoan agency [Samoa Shipping Services],” Mr. Maresca, a 30-year veteran of M.S.C. continues. 

“It is impossible to employ or sign off Samoan crew members at these conditions [...] as it is becoming much too expensive.”

Samoan crews are stranded on more than a dozen different cruise liners, including the M.S.C. Armonia in the Bahamas. 

One of the sailors on the M.S.C. Armonia, Pao Taulapapa, told the Samoa Observer in April he and other colleagues desperately needed help from the Government. 

The sailor said many other seafarers from other countries have been repatriated by their respective Governments leaving Samoan sailors isolated on the cruise ship.

“We no longer have jobs, no money, no connection with our children, our wives and parents,” said Puletiu. 

“We are here at sea waiting for the time for the virus to arrive and we will die. 

“We call on the Government and our country to please help your sons who are stranded at sea and desperately want to come home to Samoa…”

The Samoa Shipping Corporation denied Puletiu’s account, which it said did not reflect mainstream views of Samoan sailors. 

But the Chief Executive Officer of Samoa Shipping Services, Lautimuia Afoa Uelese Va’ai, has flatly denied the email contents as misleading. 

He said the exchange was just one of many between the S.S.C. and M.S.C. during the course of negotiations that ultimately became successful. The leaking of the email, he said, was the work of saboteurs. 

“The photograph of an email conversation Mediterranean Shipping Company (M.S.C.) crew manager, Rocco Maresca, in Naples and the Samoa Shipping Services (S.S.S.) was deliberately leaked to sabotage the successful outcome of negotiations between S.S.S. and M.S.C. which has resulted in the repatriation of Samoa sailors working for the Shipping Company,” the Chief Executive Officer said. 

“To set the record straight, MSC is still hiring Samoan sailors contrary to rumours scattered on the coconut wires.

“The email which is circulating right now is just part of a longer conversation between the S.S.S. and the M.S.C. Management in ironing out and finding the best options not only for MSC but also for the Samoa Government for the safe return of Samoan sailors.”

The S.S.S. says that 80 new recruits are heading to Europe this and next month to commence work with the company on the return leg of repatriation flights - evidence, he said, of a successful negotiation. 

The Government says that over 170 sailors will be returned to Samoa before November ends. 

Presently there are 323 Samoan sailors working overseas. 259 working for cruise ships and 64 working for container shipping vessels. 

Repatriation flights from Auckland-Apia are scheduled for 3 November, 4 December and 11 December. 

One dedicated charter flight of 302 passengers will come directly from Los Angeles on Friday 27 November, bringing people back from Europe, North and South America and Hawaii.

S.S.S. was incorporated in 1978 and is fully owned by the Government.

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