Professional Seafarers are Covid Essential Workers


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Professional Seafarers are Covid Essential Workers

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My covid-19 story started at the end of January, 2020. I was working as a Marine Operations Manager for Holland America Group, which is comprised of four cruise companies: Holland America Line, Seabourn, Princess Cruises, and P&O Australia. As covid-19 spread across Asia in January, we stood up our Emergency Response Center, which involved taking 12-hour shifts to support the ms Westerdam, which had been denied docking in multiple ports in Asia as a result of the covid outbreak on the Diamond Princess. Though there were no covid cases onboard the ms Westerdam, she was denied docking in Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam, Guam, Philippines, and Taiwan. Our job was to ensure that our full complement of guest and crew had enough fuel and provisions, with toilet paper being of critical importance (seriously!), to make it until we could find a port that would allow the ship to dock. Eventually, the Cambodian government allowed the ship to dock in Sihanoukville to disembark guests, which became a political photo op of good will for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who attended the ship himself when it docked.
But this story was just the beginning of the nightmare for cruise companies, and other maritime organizations. After working to disembark guests, the next hurdle was to repatriate crew, which was next to impossible with the extreme disruption to global travel, some crew members had spent months longer on the ships than anyone could have ever envisioned. Using our ships like ferries, we made plans to transport crew to their homes, but to compound the problem, local governments like South Africa and Mauritius were unwilling to accept their own nationals back when the ships arrived, which meant they had to keep sailing and further plans had to be made to get the crew home.
What you see in the object attached is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and that of its member companies making a humanitarian appeal in their interactions with local port authorities who were blocking their own citizens from returning home during this crisis. We were working long days, 7 days a week to get our colleagues home - but there is only so much you can do when local authorities will not cooperate.
The object speaks to a desperate time in the maritime industry during the covid-19 pandemic.
(Arizona State University, HST 580)

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This object is a circular letter, protocol document for International Maritime Organization (IMO) member states and provides guidance on who to treat professional seafarers during the covid-19 pandemic.

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International Maritime Organization - IMO

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This item was submitted on August 29, 2020 by Sarah Peterson using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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