Norwegian Cruise Line has repatriated 879 Filipino Seafarers flown into the ships in December of last year in anticipation of the restart of cruises. It has been an operation that has cost Norwegian Cruise Line millions of USD a month since December.
Seafarers Flown Home from Aruba
The sailors all flew back to Manila after disembarking the Norwegian Joy in Aruba, in the Dutch Caribbean. The seafarers landed in Manila International Airport in two separate groups.
According to a Department of Foreign Affairs press release, 586 Filipino seafarers arrived from Aruba on March 6. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings arranged two chartered flights for the first repatriation group. The second group of crew members arrived on March 8, said DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola.
Norwegian Joy has been without passengers since March 15, 2020. Before this repatriation, the crew was under a company-imposed quarantine for at least 14 days.
After quarantine on board the vessel and cleared by the CDC, the crew cannot go home to their family. The Philippines government insists the crew members go in to quarantine for a further two weeks in a hotel in the capital Manila.
Counting on a February Restart
Norwegian Cruise Line made the difficult decision in January of this year to repatriate the crew members home again. This after Norwegian Cruise Line had flown them to the ships in anticipation of a cruising return in February. After the CDC’s announcement at the end of October, Norwegian Cruise Line started crewing the ships in preparation. However, the restart never came.
Two ships, the Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Encore collected the crew members from the various ships to repatriate them. Crew members onboard Norwegian Encore are currently sailing towards the Philippines, where they will arrive around April 11, according to the website Crew Center.
The technical guidelines the CDC is supposed to be providing the cruise lines with is something the cruise lines still wait for now. Without these guidelines, the cruise lines cannot start their test cruises, and as such, cannot get certification to sail with paying customers. All in all, it has been an expensive exercise for the cruise line.
In the Annual Review of its financial statements, the company declared that the failed restart had cost NCL $15 million per month. These costs included crew re-staffing, re-positioning and provisioning vessels, implementing new health and safety protocols, and marketing investments, and include as well the crew members being repatriated again.
Why Doesn’t NCL Keep The Crew Onboard?
Of course, it is hard to say why the cruise line has made its decisions. We are not privy to any insider information. However, if we look at the situation as it stands currently, it isn’t hard to see why the crew is being sent home again.
As we’ve said above, the CDC is yet to give the cruise lines the technical guidelines it was supposed to give the cruise lines already in December of last year. The crew embarked on the ships on this premise.
The cruise lines are still waiting; there is little sense to keep the crew on board, as it will be 90 days before ships can sail, according to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO and President Frank Del Rio.
Cruise lines must give 30 days’ notice to the CDC before test sailings can begin. They also need to apply for a Conditional Sailing Certificate 60 days before a regular voyage. Lots of different time frames and procedures will only add to this.
Keeping the crew on board would mean keeping thousands of crew members onboard, feeding them, burning fuel for air-conditioning and electricity, paying wages, and medical care.
In the meantime, crew members are not working and are essentially confined to their cabins most of the time. Therefore, it makes more sense financially and for the crew themselves to send them home again and try again later.
When will we see these crew members return onboard? Predictions are for May in the UK, June in the US, and even later in Australia. Keep in mind; projections have proven to be a very fluid thing lately.