16 Nov 2020

Samoa brings first of its Covid stranded seafarers home

7:42 pm on 16 November 2020

The first group of Samoan seafarers repatriated since the Covid-19 pandemic began, have now returned home.

Twenty-seven seafarers were among close to 300 passengers on the Friday's flight from New Zealand.

The group are now undergoing the government's mandatory 14-days quarantine.

The seafarers, who had worked for Switzerland-registered Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), traveled from Dubai to Auckland to catch the flight home.

Earlier the Samoan government had been accused of abandoning seamen stranded around the world because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Samoa’s Faleolo international airport’s newly built departure lounge has been equipped with new technology

Photo: RNZI Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

Reports from Samoa indicated MSC was considering a ban on Samoan seamen because the government had apparently refused to repatriate stranded nationals, unless companies met the costs of repatriation.

However government-owned entity, Samoa Shipping Services, said it handles the placement of seafarers with shipping companies worldwide.

Its CEO called the email leak an act of ''sabotage'' saying it was part of an extended conversation on the repatriation of stranded sailors.

Lautimu'ia Uelese Va'ai said MSC was still hiring Samoan sailors, contrary to rumours.

He said the email circulating now was just part of a longer conversation between management in ironing out and finding the best options.

A repatriation flight from Los Angeles arriving in two weeks was expected to carry the first lot of sailors with the government saying 170 would return before the end of the month.

Hundreds of Samoans work on cruise ships and merchant ships around the world.

Meanwhile in Solomon Islands..

The government has scheduled a repatriation flight from Fiji this week.

This was confirmed in a statement from the Solomons High Commission in Suva calling on all citizens intending to board the flight on Thursday that the deadline for pre-departure Covid-19 tests is tomorrow.

It also advised foreign nationals, who would like to catch the flight, they will require prior government approval from Honiara.

Tickets for the flight can be purchased from Solomon Airlines.

Passengers are advised to eat prior to the flight as there will be minimal catering onboard and also facial masks must be worn at all times.

In Honiara all passengers will undergo additional screening and be required to quarantine for 14 days in supervised government approved facilities.