Five Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) operated and Global Cruise Lines managed cruise ships have been detained by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) over crew welfare concerns under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
The MCA revealed that it inspected six ships from manager Global Cruise Lines recently and that five had been detained – one in Avonmouth (‘Marco Polo’) and four at Tilbury (‘Astoria’, ‘Astor’, ‘Vasco da Gama’ and ‘Columbus’).
“Surveyors found a number of expired and invalid Seafarers Employment Agreements, late payments of wages and crews who had been on board for over 12 months,” the MCA said in a statement.
Four of the ships are flagged with the Bahamas and one with Portugal.
A CMV spokesman told newswires that the company had “co-operated fully” with investigators.
“The MCA has identified some issues relating to expired crew contracts and crew being on board in excess of 12 months. Both issues occurred as a result of the enforced lockdown period and the Covid-19 travel restrictions for some countries. They also identified recent temporary delays in the payment of wages which were due within the last week and have already been corrected by CMV.
“The health, safety and welfare of all their passengers and crew is CMV’s top priority. CMV, as have many other cruise lines, has faced an unprecedented emerging humanitarian issue as many crew members became stranded on cruise ships as borders closed as a result of the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. CMV has worked hard to repatriate as many crew members as possible and has been unable to repatriate all crew members due to the travel restrictions,” the spokesman said.
Some 600 of the six ships’ crews are Indians, according to Kshitij Thakur, a lawyer and politician from Maharashtra State talking with local media.
In a letter sent to the Indian Government, he said that the seafarers, who “have been stuck in foreign waters for almost 90 days”, should be repatriated as soon as possible.
The All Indian Seafarers Union has also sent a letter to the New Delhi Government stating that many of the sailors on board the ‘Astoria’ had gone on hunger strike and staged a peaceful protest in a plea for help, which CMV also confirmed.
UK seafarer union RMT welcomed the MCA actions.
RMT Assistant General Secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “The MCA’s intervention exposes the shipping industry’s culture of abuse of seafarers’ rights, from the use of flags of convenience with no diplomatic influence and basic monthly wages as low as €200 per month.
“The conditions imposed on seafarers as a consequence of Covid-19 should never be forgotten and RMT is working with the ITF to end the appalling treatment of these key workers and other seafarers employed within the cruise ship sector around the UK Coast who may also be subject to similar concerns at this moment in time,” he said.
CMV confirmed that 1,449 crew were on board six ships currently idle, which included the ‘Magellan’ at Tilbury, which was not under detention.
The company is also reportedly trying to access finance, as it was rumoured that a loan had been refused recently.
CMV had also recently announced a further extension the suspension of all worldwide cruises from 1st July to 25th