Thousands of Cruise Ship Workers Stranded at Sea Due to Coronavirus

A conflicted response leaves 100,000 in limbo

Cruise ship at sea
Many cruise ship workers are dealing with an uncertain existence right now.
HenSti/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / May 19, 2020 11:38 am

Public health responses to the ongoing pandemic have led to a number of nerve-wracking situations around the globe, including plenty that have involved cruise ships. Many of those have focused on the passengers, who — until recently, in some cases — had to grapple with being on a ship that was unable to dock.

A new article by Taylor Dolven at the Miami Herald looks at another side of the crisis’s impact on cruise lines — namely, how it’s affected the people who work on board the ships. The answer paints an utterly harrowing portrait of cruise ship workers living on boats unable to dock in port. In some cases, they’re also doing so without pay.

Dolven’s article notes that this situation is far from isolated; in fact, it affects no less than 100,000 people. This has proven to be a health crisis in multiple ways. On one hand, COVID-19 has continued to spread among crew members. Simultaneously, crew members are also dealing with widespread depression, which has had tragic consequences for a few.

The article paints an unsettling picture of daily life on board these ships:

Some crew members have spent days in small, windowless rooms with no information about when they will be going home as their ships float in and out of U.S. ports. Some are on long journeys crossing the Atlantic Ocean without any assurance their home countries will allow them to dock. Some were told for weeks that their ships were virus-free only to see colleagues quietly evacuated to Miami hospitals days later.

Further complicating the situation is an array of international laws — both those in the countries where the ships are registered and those of crew members’ homes. When you consider an industry with a work force from around the globe, it suggests how complex this could become. But that’s little comfort for those people stranded on board ships, looking for a way to get home.

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