File photo of an SVG passport.

Dear Prime Minister Dr. Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves,  

I write to you on day 35 of a very uncertain time stuck on the seas.

Other Vincentian sailors here share the same plight.

With all due respect, I could tell you that I’ve been an active ULP supporter since I became and adult and able to vote. In the scheme of things, however, that is not necessary information, except to say that I have never been one to question your judgement on decision-making.

I have never been one to question your way of leadership. In my opinion, you are by far the most prestigious leader of our time. But ever since this pandemic, some of the things you do seem very questionable.

I know leaders see beyond what the rest of us can see but a few developments are waning any benefit of the doubt I have given you so far.

One such development is your treatment of our situation as sailors stuck out here.

I have a few grey areas I would like to shed some light on so, I’m going to get this off my chest.

The cover of my Passport says “St. Vincent and The Grenadines” with a Coat Of Arms stating  “Pax et Justicia” (“Peace and Justice”). In other words, I am a citizen of SVG and so are the rest of my fellow seafarers holding a Vincentian Passport.

Now, I may not know all of the facts surrounding this whole situation but what I do know is that the company that I am working for has been doing its best during this pandemic to keep us safe and secure. (Thank you NCL).

We have been isolated for more than 35 days now, social distancing is in full effect, with regular symptom and temperature check three times per day every single day with no physical contact from anyone in the outside world. (Imagine being a few metres from the coastline but stuck on tonnes of floating steel. Feels a lot like prison).

Despite your initial decision to not close our borders, they are now technically closed. Without such a declaration, a window is left open for us to return. Thank you very much for that decision, despite the naysayers. I — and I am sure we the seafarers — appreciate that.

What I do not appreciate is the way, from my perspective, you are trying to avoid the responsibility you have to us as citizens.

Now, according to Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) under circumstances such as these, the companies are responsible for our accommodation, food, medical supplies, etc., and, don’t forget, REPATRIATION.

Now, it is alleged that you require the companies to pay US$150 per pay for 21 days for all Vincentian crewmembers to be quarantined? Just a few questions:

1. What if the company refuses, will we, sailors, be required to pay that US$150 per day for 21 days?

2. What happened to the Supplementary Budget that was passed in Parliament not too long ago for COVID19 purposes or the US$4.5million that was activated on April 17 by the World Vank for SVG Covid-19 response, and also money from other institutions such as East Caribbean Central Bank, NIS, etc.? Is it not supposed to involve covering the cost for the quarantining of citizens who have contracted the virus (involving but not limited to food, accommodation, security, and medical attention)?

3. If not, then what kind of COVID-19 response budget would leave it citizens stranded on the proverbial road to Damascus waiting for an unknown good Samaritan to save us? WE will like to know. Bear in mind, we are the same citizens abroad who contribution millions in remittances to the country? For all we have contributed over the years, the government cannot at one single time of need contribute to us or meet us half way?

4. Also, why 21 days quarantine though when the requirement from the WHO is 14 days?

Now, I have no doubt that some cruise lines will indeed refuse to pay. After all, who can blame them? With the current economic state of the world they are not generating any revenue and to be honest, why should they pay? They have lived up to their responsibilities to us. Now where repatriation is concern once our feet touches the soil in SVG, we are no longer a responsibility of the cruise line.

At home, we are governed by our laws, under our constitution and therefore under the responsibility of our government. And our circumstances will require unique attention.

So, again why should they pay for what the Government of SVG is responsible for?

And if the rumours regarding the cruise lines refusal to pay are true, then the crewmembers will have to pay. I personally have made up my mind that I will not bear any such expenses, at least, not by my self because I am a law-abiding citizen and a taxpayer just like anyone living in SVG. Especially, too, not for 21 days since the WHOs recommendation is 14 days of quarantine.

I will like to plead with fellow sailors and our families to speak up, speak out and air their views because our country has a democratic system and the outcome of this process depends on what we do and say as a collective, no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.

We hope that this issue can be solved amicably in the most commonsensical way and get us home quickly without damaging relations with our places of employment.

Vincentian Cruise Worker

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

30 replies on “Dear PM, Are sailors not Vincies too?”

  1. The writer is correct. Why should the cruise company have to pay? There responsibility only applies in getting them to and from the ship, and their health and wellbeing during their period of employment whilst on the ship. Therefore I am more than puzzled as to why PM would expect the cruise line company to pay?

    I note the 2 floors in Buccament hotel are lit up at night and, we can see several people in there, who are they quarantineing there? And who paying for that? funny they now find the money to put back on the electric?

  2. My heart goes out to the sailors who are stuck at sea in a situation like this may the good God bless and keep you . Mr PM please look out for your people, our sisters and brothers and bring the sailors home urgently, let it not only be about the money but for the safety of our vincentians citizens. Thank you.

  3. Stanley Butler says:

    How can we sea man pay a 150us a day wen we don’t even make 25us a day you all don’t know what we going true let the PM ask carnival how much someone in the F&B department making a day

  4. I agree, a time to come together. There is funding for the particular situation. We need our young men and women home

  5. That one is tough on us as sailor’s who work in the food and beverage department we send home money for family and bills where do they want us to find this money from

  6. Evette Prescott says:

    I pray for your safety and protection. God will surely make a way for you and colleagues. Mr Prime minister Ralph Gonsalves please hear and understand the plight of your sons and daughters. They need your urgent help. These are your children and a good and Godly father would help in time of need. You are there for such a time as this. They need to hear you and to know that you are a.caring father. Did you say you are father of the people of SVG. They need your help.

  7. I refused to read the rest of your letter from the time you took the time wasting explaining that you are a ULP supporter. ……ah mean what does that have to do with anything at all in a crisis like this ???

    1. Had you continue to read, you would have seen that the person indicated that who they support has no bearing on what they are writing but go off I guess

  8. I am totally on your side regarding this issue. Ralph just want to put some money in the hands of hoteliers. Many of you may be able quarantine yourself at you home and don’t need the hotel accommodation. I noticed you mention 21 day instead of 14 and that tells you something is not right.
    My first response to this episode was to ask the government to cover the cost, but you have shown that the government has funds from several entities that should cover the cost for COVID-19 carriers.
    I hope Vincentians and the opposition would come out in your favor.

  9. A rather interesting letter well written. I sincerely hope after reading this letter. PM Gonsalves , will do the right thing and act swiftly to get the Seamen home.

  10. William Jackson says:

    As they have stated they will not follow the requirements of the quarantine once on land, best they stay safely on board their boat, safe, fed and sheltered until this thing settles down. They are obviously not “law abiding” as they claim and as for their other claim of being a “taxpayer”, really, are you paying income taxes on your cruise ship salary here in SVG? We here are paying every month and NIS, also VAT on nearly every single thing every day whilst they have probably not contributed a cent personally to any!
    As we can see regionally, if the government of Trinidad is denying entry to their 250 cruise ship workers because they do not believe their health system can cope with such a surge of possible cases to their shore why do these selfish people think that the 100,000 or so people in St Vincent should be put at risk for the comfort of these 300, how on earth can our system cope? We must think of the health of the majority and for the greater good, so it obviously does not make sense at this time to possibly add to the number of cases, this can be reviewed later down. Be responsible to the majority of the populace, not the minority making noise, particularly when you consider the virus is taking a much harder toll on black people than other races.

    1. You are darm! Stupid we are all Vincentian born and raised as sailors the money goes back to st vincent to pay bills, land tax ,etc they are Vincentian and they deserved to be home with family all rights as you no matter the cost.

    2. Mr Jackson clearly You are not a vincentian and if you are I hope you never find your self in this situation. If you do should we all say the same to leave u where ever u are. Clearly u did not read what was written let me refresh you. We are in quarantine for almost a month with no systoms and yes I am a sailor on board RCL ship. 2 you mention we not paying tax or NIS let me correct you on that our money which is send home to our family pay bill (tax), buy grocery (tax) buy clothing (TAX) most of us own land, house, cars we pay tax on those too right our money is also put in to credit union and banks which they in turn use to let as loan to people at home (Tax )so before u come and run your mouth get your fact straight at least u got one thing right we are safe our here no virus and taken care of. You need to worry the number is now 15 and growing.

      1. A very concern Vincentian says:

        yes it is because of your colleagues irresponsible behaviour why the numbers are 15 and growing

  11. Omarion debique says:

    Well a sea man. I read everything and took it in full detail and everything makes perfect sense the sad part is that I have a really bad feeling that this situation is going to most definitely damage relationships between Saint Vincent and Cruise line industries. There is a lot of laws and regulation when it comes to cruise line industries that they have to abide into (MLC) and if an individual is on board the company will definitely take care of that crewmember. But as soon as they step foot in there home land. The government should immediately take responsibility without hesitation regarding the current situation. Believe me it’s a complex And unfortunate times. But let’s keep our fingers crossed and see what will happen in the future and yes I am (home at the moment) but I am praying that everything will work out ASAP in the most safe and relevant way

  12. Couldn’t be clearer than that; we are citizens of St.Vincent & yet Cruise company’s are doing more for us than our country.

    6 Wks now at sea and still no clear information if we may come home. The company’s are losing “Millions every day & still Ralph wants them to commit to his unreasonable demands when he should be taking on what he’s outlined as “Protocols”.
    Thank you Royal Caribbean!!!

  13. This is a very profound message. I endorse it 100%.
    PM, it’s about time you ACT. USE the money for the SOLE PURPOSE of COVID-19.
    THANKS FOR YOUR SPACE.

  14. I agree with the writer 110%. The cruise lines are doing there parts and I don’t agree that the companies should pay the expenses of the government. Then what’s with this 21 days every where In he world doing 14 day. If the writer here or the commenters miss any points that we may not understand, please enlighten us .

  15. Bill Johnney says:

    William Jackson. I can shake your hands a million times, you are 100% on point, but you know what? It’s Ralph Gonsalves so do not expect much favorable comments, he is trying his best to help but they are not willing to obey the quarantine processes because they are mightier than the majority, bring in those who are willing to obey, those who are not, leave them where they are.

  16. Ossie Garraway says:

    The same people who suggest the urgency to get people on vincentian soil without first ensuring that the neccessary protocals are in place to ensure the security of the nation, would be the same ones to CRUCIFY
    Ralph when hundreds of sick people including [asymptomatic persons let loose and behave irresponsibly;leading to massive community spread and the overwhelming of the health system.I have relatives out there and understand their plight BUT let us be reasonable;listen to the PM and the experts and let us get things done right or we will remove one problem and create a far greater one.

  17. Why when the opposition leader said to closed the border no one jump at his throat, Cummings all of them I heard him for myself you all are just hypocrites and all about politics I am a sailor. They on hot FM people calling voicing their opinions the two radio announcers saying to leave us out there but God is always good we are coming home not because of you all but because of the prime minister Ralph Gonsalves he do things his way

  18. Atiba Lemmond says:

    Am i reading correct, “for the greater of good”, foh real, so we aren’t suppose to rescue them, real sad. Our Leader qualities are infectious.

  19. Personally I believe that our Vincentian sailors should be brought home.

    However, it is impractical to have hundreds of our sailors come home around the same period. It is safe to have a manageable number repatriated home to do their quarantine and after they have been cleared the next batch can be repatriated and so forth.

    Some persons who are coming from high risk scenarios are asked to do 21 days quarantine and I think it is more than appropriate for our sailors to be in this category. By now most Vincentians know that the last imported cases were sailors and it can be inferred that the case of the local transmission came about because sailors broke the mandatory home quarantine.

    In my opinion it is unfair to ask the government to bear all the cost of our sailor’s mandatory quarantine. This should be a shared cost- SVG is taking the risk of exposing the population to possible infection, any associated cost for treating any critical persons and giving a small stipend to the same sailors who are now unemployed as a result of COVID-19. Therefore it is fair that the ships be asked to cover the sailors quarantine because if God forbid we do like some of our neighbours and refuse access then the cruise liners will be bearing the cost of living for these sailors until some country allows them to disembark.

    Sailors do continue to let the government know that you want to come home but remember that you have a responsibility as citizens to do all you can to stem the spread of COVID-19 and that government monies must be stretch to cover most not only the minority.

  20. Fidus Achates says:

    It’s the Government responsibility to take care of their own citizens.When Sailors go out to work the company covers the hotel arrangements before they get back on the ship a day or two before they join the ship.So why is the PM doing all of this?What he is doing is unacceptable,he needs to know this everyday.

  21. Sharon Mayers says:

    To you William Jackson your comments are rediculous.
    First the sailors have been in Quarantine for more than 21 days. They are not in contact with any passengers. The new guidelines are seven days without a fever then you can return to work.
    Even if the government of SVG wants to (rightly so ) quarantine these workers for any additional period of time, it should not cost US $150. Daily.
    Most importantly they are Vincentians and should not be barred from their homeland.
    Slowly but surely the rights of Vincentians are being eroded by the current political regime. Unless Vincentians wake up, protest peacefully and stand up for each other we will find ourselves living in a Communist state.
    Mr Prime minister, I add my voice in support of the others, let Vincentians leave the ship and come home.

  22. The writer is a bona-fide moron, it is ridiculous to state that he is a ULP supporter.What has that to do with the matter? By staying that it seems as though the writer is looking for special privileges. Whether or not you vote ULP in the future, you vote or support will not be missed.

    If you were stating your request from a principled position, then I clearly under you plight. Accordingly, by stating your political affliction, the rest of your argument is compromised and tainted. I rest my case.

  23. Coming home to go into a hotel room to be quarantine put us at a great risk of getting the virus because we don’t know if the rooms are being sanitized in the right manner.
    the bed spread the mattress especially the pillows.how can we know if a sick person sleep on those pillows.Bacteria from dribbled mouth are there in pillows and mattress. On this ship harmony of the seas, in the company as a whole we have 3 of the most expensive chemical ever for sanitization plus we have bleach.we clean,sanitized and changed to new pillows and in quarantine from mid March until now,temperatures check twice a day and three courses meal a day and all crew on duty have to undergo the same procedure,social distancing and wearing of masks.Is the safety of the sailor, guarentee in hotels?It would of been better if the PM did blocked the borders and saved VINCY the embarrassment.because country’s with closed borders open up for their ship national.
    THANKS TO ROYAL CARIBBEAN FOR EVERYTHING THEY HAVE DONE TO US AS VINCY AND STILL DOING.
    WE WILL BE BACK,LOVE YOU RCL.
    Vincy take a look,April 19th Covid-19 us$4.5 millions.200sailors.us$150.each.NIS-money.ECCB-money and more.
    Vincy $150EC.is for the hotel from $150US.for 200-RCL SAILORS.
    THINK WHY COUNTRYS WITH CLOSED BORDERS SAYING GOOD BYE TO VINCY WITH OPEN BORDERS.

  24. Ossie Garraway says:

    After all the blaming and carrying on about the wickedness of the PM in preventing the return of our sailors to SVG , I am here reading on ABC NEWS that The CDC in the USA is “About” to get some some ship companies to finally agree to sign agreements for the repatriation of thousands of crew members from many countries of the world.This makes sense to some people but it is quite confusing to me.It makes SOME PEOPLE seem quite DISHONEST or NOT SO SMART.Governance is a serious thing dread.
    MR TRAVIS HARRY,how were our seamen supposed to get home?By jumping barricades or swimming?

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