The government is weighing in on a request from international cruise companies seeking permission to charter flights and bring back 14,000 seafarers as India begins a phased repatriation of its nationals stranded around the world, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Shipping.
Shipping companies have submitted their request to various government agencies, including Directorate General of Shipping, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Home Affairs, say industry players.
“We are hoping that the government will also allow international cruise companies to charter planes. There are nearly 14,000 of our crew in different countries. We have provided a list of the number of seafarers stranded at different ports to various Ministries and are awaiting a nod,” says Prasad Hariharan, Managing Director, Carnival Support Services Limited, which is a cruise ship manning firm.
He said once the government gives its nod, shipping companies will be able to prepare a plan for chartering flights from various countries.
The list shared by the shipping companies includes details of over 21,000 seafarers on 195 ships around the world. A large chunk of these ships are near the Americas. More than 2,000 seafarers are near Miami. Other ports in the region include Tampa in Florida, San Diego and Bahamas. Over 1,600 mariners are at various locations near Italy and more than 2,000 are in the U.K. The mariners are also stranded near Brazil, Portugal, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines.
In the absence of an air corridor, shipping industries are also pursuing bringing them back via sea. The government has so far only allowed crew change for ships at various Indian ports — a move that is likely to benefit nearly 3,000 seamen.
A Shipping Ministry official said some seafarers were also expected to be accommodated in Air India flights being mounted by the government to bring back Indians from 12 countries.