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Coronavirus taking a toll on Goan seamen

JOAO SOUSA M | NT

Margao: Coronavirus is taking a toll on Goans employed on cruise liners, with the ripple effect of the spread of the infection being felt on the major global shipping companies, which have now suspended their operations for upto two months.

The development attains significance, as several Goans, who are presently on such ships remain stranded there, while many others who had returned home stare at a long stint without any employment.

According to sources in the shipping industry, major cruise shipping companies have suspended operations from the midnight of March 14. These cruises include Norwegian Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Viking, Carnival and P&O, while some other cruise companies are also expected to follow them.

The sources said that the suspension of operations will have a long-term effect on the thousands of Goans, who are gainfully employed with the cruise ships, as the fate of those who are presently on the ships hangs in balance. An official of the shipping industry said that the cruise liners that are presently on their voyage will end it at the earliest while taking the travel arrangements of the passengers into consideration. However, the fate of the employees is not known.

The official also said that the development will also have a long-term impact on those seamen, who have returned home. He said that they could stare at a long wait before they can join duty on the ships again.

The official said that the virus outbreak will have an impact on the global economy, as the cruise companies are already offering upto 125 per cent refund in the form of future cruise credit or a 100 per cent refund.

A Goan, presently employed with the Royal Caribbean cruise liner, said, “The cruise ship was slated to do the European leg. However, the cruise has been suspended. We don’t know what will be our fate. All of us are worried and are keeping our fingers crossed.”

Another Goan seaman said, “The ship was presently doing the Caribbean leg. However, the ship has turned around and is preparing to return back to the base in Southampton. We don’t know what is in store for the near future.”

Wife of another seafarer, Pressy Fernandes, said that her husband had left Goa on March 12 and was supposed to join duty on a cruise liner on March 14. “However, we have received information that the company is suspending operations for two months. We don’t know what will be his fate, as he is stranded at the airport in Italy.”

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