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Coronavirus lockdown | Over 300 seafarers fly back to Goa

Return of stranded mariners gathers pace as govt. lets cruiseliners hire flights

More than 300 seafarers returned to Goa from Italy on two chartered flights on Wednesday.

This is the first batch of mariners who have been able to return by air, after the Union Home Ministry allowed three flights to be chartered to bring them back.

Italian cruise company Costa Cruise chartered the services of Italian leisure airline, Neos, for this exercise which pressed into service its Boeing 737 aircraft. “The first aircraft landed at 10.40 a.m. with 168 passengers on board, and the second plane landed around 6 p.m. with 167 seafarers,” Airport director Gagan Malik said. A third flight was yet to land along with 81 on board at the time of going to print.

Sent to quarantine

The swabs of passengers were taken at the Dabolim International Airport from where they were taken to paid quarantine facilities identified by the Goa government. The president of Goa Seamen Association of India, Dixon Vaz, told The Hindu that he had moved the Goa High Court opposing the demand from the government that seafarers pay for the quarantine facility, following which the court had sought a reply from the State. The Home Ministry had earlier announced that passengers returning from around the world aboard special Air India flights would have to pay for the isolation facilities identified by the States.

Also read: 154 crew members of ships to be quarantined in Goa: Pramod Sawant

While the Shipping Ministry allowed cruise companies to operate flights on May 25, the shipping industry rues the lack of standard operating protocols in procuring permissions which have delayed many applications. “Without a protocol in place we have to run from pillar to post for permissions. We don’t know whether the application process will start in India, or in a foreign country where seamen are stranded,” said a senior executive on condition of anonymity.

15,000 seamen stranded

There are an estimated 15,000 India seamen stranded around the world either aboard cruise ships or on foreign soil. The government has also allowed them to avail special Air India flights being operated under the Vande Bharat Mission to return to India.

Also read: Indian seafarers to be evacuated through Vande Bharat Mission

“Out of the 7,000 seafarers who have registered on the MEA’s website, only 350 have been able to return. These are mostly from the U.K.,” said Captain Sanjay Parashar, chairman of the International Maritime Federation.

Two cruiseliners so far have also been able to disembark seamen at Mumbai port.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 9:54:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-lockdown-over-300-seafarers-fly-back-to-goa/article31635372.ece

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