Trinidadian cruise ship workers who remain stranded on board multiple vessels throughout the world are asking for exemptions to return home.
Kerwin John Collins told the Express in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he is one of two Trinidadians currently aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas cruise ship anchored off the coast of Southampton in the United Kingdom and unable to dock due to Covid-19 restrictions.
According to Collins, there are approximately 15 nationals still aboard three Royal Caribbean ships in the European region.
All, he said, are yet to receive any word from the authorities on when they would be allowed home.
“Right now, there are Trinidadians on the Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas. It is very stressful,” he said.
Collins left the country on March 7 to work as a housekeeper on board the ship before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in Trinidad and Tobago and the corresponding border closure.
As circumstances shifted, all operations were terminated. Since then, he said he has waited on the vessel with diminishing hope that he would soon be allowed home. He is part of the bare minimal staff that remained on the vessel to provide maintenance.
“As the pandemic hit they had to cancel and shut down worldwide. We have been here since March 7. I am a housekeeper here and we have been unable to return home.
“We spend day by day waiting and waiting for a response from the Government and we have yet to hear anything. It’s very frustrating, We keep getting the automatic response stating that our details will be forwarded shortly,” he said.
Waiting, waiting, waiting
When repatriation efforts for cruise ship workers were undertaken by the Government via the Enchantment of the Seas vessel in June, Collins was part of a small number of workers who were unable to return home due to his proximity.
Battling the severity of being stranded, he applied for exemptions on August 19 and September 27. On both occasions, he said he received automatic responses.
The 36-year-old spoke of his longing to return to his ten-year-old son and partner. Driven by desperation, he has since penned a letter to the Ministry of National Security asking for consideration.
“I urge you urgently, please respond to my exemption, also my fellow citizens on board Symphony of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
“Our family needs us, especially in these worrying times. I am willing to pay for my own quarantine if your centre is filled to capacity. Thank you for understanding and caring for citizens of our loved Trinidad and Tobago,” he wrote.
To date he said, no response has been received.
With the Royal Caribbean company indicating its willingness to provide repatriating flights for stranded employees, he asked that those stranded on these ships be acknowledged.
“I can’t explain, it is hard to put into words, we just want to come home. We spend every day here just waiting and waiting, Sitting here and waiting is frustrating. You try to get your mind off it but you keep thinking of it. When you look off the ship and you see land all you think of is being home,” said Collins.
is moving apace
Speaking at the Covid update news conference last Saturday, National Security Minister Stuart Young indicated the repatriation process was being sped up as domestic Covid facilities became available in recent times. In this week alone, at least four flights are scheduled to return, he said.
“What we are now doing, fortunately because we have more facilities, is we are speeding that process up. In this coming week, on Tuesday we have a flight from New York, Wednesday we have a flight from Toronto, Friday we have a flight from Barbados.
“We are going to put on it within that ten day period we have in a shorter period, another flight from the US because we have now reached a stage with the increasing facilities we can use for State quarantine that we can bring back persons a lot quicker,” he said.
These repatriations will be done in keeping with the liberal exemption policy which divides incoming nationals on the risk level of the country from which they are coming.
While cruise ships have been noted as “high risk” for Covid-19 transmission, it is unclear how these workers may be affected by the policy.