Sailors counting down the days to homecoming

Samoan sailors who have been stranded since the country’s borders were closed in March last year are counting down the days until they touch down on Samoan soil on 22 January. 

They were scheduled to arrive via a repatriation flight before Christmas but it was cancelled after Samoa’s discovery of incoming passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 with what were found to be non-contagious cases of COVID-19. 

The M.S.C. Seaside on which there are some 80 Samoan sailors departed Miami, Florida, United States several weeks ago.

The Seaside is currently docked at the seaside port of Genoa in Italy.

It took the crew 15 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean for Europe, one sailor told the Samoa Observer.

The sailor, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said after 15 days on the ocean, the first stop for the M.S.C. Seaside was to dock in Gibraltar before making its way toward Italy. 

On Monday morning, the sailors underwent multiple tests including a swab test to check them for the COVID-19 virus.

On Tuesday the sailors will disembark the ship for a series of flights that will make up their winding journey home. 

They will catch a flight to Milan, Italy from which they will depart for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

From Dubai, they will board a third flight for New Zealand.

The fourth flight on 22 January will depart New Zealand and finally bring them home to Faleolo International Airport.

“We are all happy,” the sailor said on Monday.

Sailors aboard the M.S.C. Seaside organised special programmes to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

The events lifted their spirits after their 27 November flight was cancelled last year just before they were prepared to leave from Los Angeles, California for Faleolo. 

The seafarers had hoped to be home in time for the holidays.

Family members of the sailors awaiting their return home were heartbroken when the flight was cancelled.

Upon the sailors' arrival in Samoa on 22 January, they won’t be reunited with their loved ones immediately. 

The arriving seafarers will be placed in quarantine for three weeks or 21 days.

Their release from quarantine is scheduled for the week of Valentine’s Day on 14 February.

In early December of 2020, the family of Vaitele Fou sailor, Taualagi Sua, praised God for the announcement of the 22 January flight by the Government.

Matile Sua, 55, said she relied on her faith to move forward and stay strong in that difficult time.

“The only thing I have to say is thank God. My husband was supposed to come on that [27 November] flight that was postponed. It’s true he didn’t come but I thank the Lord that we now have a day for his arrival,” she said.

Her husband left Samoa for work in January of 2019.


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