Crew open letter to the United Nations regarding border closures and CDC restrictions.

May 19, 2020

Open letter to the United Nations (UN)

Over 200,000 seafarers are stranded out at sea right now. Some have already lost hope and committed suicide. Others say they are close to doing the same. What can the United Nations do to help repatriate citizens to their home countries, because we are asking for your help.

There are approximately 80,000 cruise ship employees and 150,000 cargo ship employees. A majority of these cruise ship crew members are not working and cannot get home. They are not being paid in many cases, and in others, the pay is minimal. Cargo ship workers have several crew who are overdue for crew change, living in even more limited conditions and with less resources to advocate for them. Several ships are required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to sail with stringent restrictions. Level 3 onboard a cruise vessel means that crew has to be in their cabins (some without windows) for 21 hours per day. They can only come out for meals and a fresh air break. They do not all have free Wi-Fi, and they have minimal contact with their families at home.

Sign the Petition Save the crew before it's too late HERE

CDC has implemented a no sail order, but it does not mean that crew cannot disembark. However, CDC has made some of the cruise lines reluctant to sign the required attestation and thereby agreeing to criminal sanctions for every single crew member that they send home, should their transport arrangements result in any public interactions.

Even as the ships comply with CDC or send vessels to international ports to avoid these and repatriate crew, there are too many daily changes to the border restrictions. Thus, even if the cruise lines agree to the extraordinary costs to charter their crew home (and keep in mind, they have), flights are being cancelled, and countries are shutting their doors at the last minute. The cruise lines have even swapped crew onto ships, split by citizenship, and tried to sail them home from the USA all the way to Manila Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Europe.


Firstly, we need the CDC and international port and health authorities to review its cruise line onboard restrictions, to consider how long they have been at sea with little to no exposure, and to loosen up on their requirements of the cruise lines. If they do not do this and they do not bring all cruise ships to at least a level 2, more lives will be lost as crew members lose their ability to cope with the isolation, loneliness, and depression until they can be repatriated. CDC is not treating each ship as an individual, nor recognizing the efforts of some ships that have not had cases and have submitted reasonable action plans for Covid-19.

Secondly, and URGENTLY, we need an international ruling that mandates all countries to accept their own citizens back into their countries regardless of current border restrictions. The blatant refusal of a country to repatriate its own citizens is appalling, it is tearing apart families and causing severe mental health issues (that will eventually become their country and their health systems problem).

Lastly, we need for CDC to lift some of the travel restrictions in place and to enable cruise lines to send crew homes on commercial flights via. The crew have been better isolated, better monitored with their multiple temperature checks per day, and they are living in much more sterile environments than anyone on land. The USA is already allowing commercial flights and international flights are resuming again. Yet, CDC is treating cruise line crew members like an entirely different species.

There have been hunger strikes, suicides and protests, and yet, these crew members are still onboard feeling hopeless. Chartered flights are booked and cancelled; crew members are not informed of future plans. Countries are running out of test supplies for Covid-19, and the crew cannot get tested. It is also widely suspected that some countries are withholding results, and delaying disembarkation authorization to extend the cost benefits to its economies.

We believe that the UN could help find common ground for the current situation. We understand the CDC's and all countries concerns, but we cannot close our eyes to what is happening onboard of these vessels. This is a pressing matter that needs worldwide attention.

Please help us aid the hundreds of thousands of international lives at sea, consisting of over 60 nationalities. They have the same rights as you and I to get home to their family and loved ones. We cannot allow them to suffer. How many more lives will we need to lose or harm before an agreement is reached?

  • Thank you for your consideration,
  • Krista Thomas, Dawn Di Meglio-Olivia, Thais Souza
  • & 200,000 seafarers, their families, and their friends around the world.
  • Spread far and wide.#sendushome #unitednations #cdc #strandedatsea #crewlife