Sailors’ repatriation flight announced

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 05 December 2020, 10:10AM

A special repatriation flight to bring 297 sailors home on 22 January 2021 was announced on Friday.

Papalii Niko Lee Hang, the Minister of Works, Transportation and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I.), made the announcement at a press conference at the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi (T.A.T.T.E.) Building in Sogi.

The flight with the sailors will travel from New Zealand to Samoa.

Over the past 10 months, keeping Samoa safe has been paramount as the Government works to repatriate all its citizens abroad, the Minister said.

It does not sit well with the Government that Samoan sailors were stranded on ships around the globe, said Papalii.

In announcing the flight, he thanked Samoa’s sailors for their patience in dealing with Samoa’s challenges of repatriating its people.

He also commended the men for their hard work in caring for their families who await their return in Samoa. Papalii urged them to be patient and courageous in the days ahead and also advised them to pray and fast during this time.

The sailors were encouraged to help and strengthen each other during tough times and assured them of Samoa’s prayers for their safety and protection.

Papalii urged the country to work together with the Government in their efforts to bring Samoa’s people home and protect the community from the pandemic by following the state of emergency restrictions.

Samoa is currently on Level 1 Alert following two individuals returning positive tests for COVID-19, despite later tests revealing them to be historical, or non-contagious cases of the disease. 

It’s a challenging time for Samoa, the Minister  said, and asked the people for their patience and their prayers.

General Manager for Samoa Shipping Services, Lautimuia Afoa Vaai, told the Samoa Observer that vessels with Samoan sailors are in Europe, North America, South Africa and South America.

All sailors, including those on the M.S.C. Seaside at Miami, Florida will have to travel to New Zealand to catch the 22 January flight.

Their flight arrangements have yet to be finalized, said Lautimuia.

Twenty-seven sailors arrived on the 13 November flight, leaving 296 Samoan sailors abroad.

 The number of sailors arriving on the 22 January flight will be 297.

That number includes one sailor who is currently in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for stabbing a shipmate.

Asked if Samoa Shipping will reimburse the Mediterranean Shipping Company (M.S.C.) for expenses of lodging, food and medical requirements due to the cancellation of the 27 November Los Angeles-Faleolo flight, Lautimuia would not comment. 

He was also asked if COVID-19 related challenges are putting a strain on Samoa Shipping’s relationship with M.S.C.

“It is not within our business dealings to reveal costs by our business partners such as M.S.C. and we keep it that way in their best interest,” he said.

“COVID-19 poses many challenges due to forced restrictions and understandably these may cause frustration at times during negotiations but they do not affect our business relationship and sailor employment.”



By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 05 December 2020, 10:10AM

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