iWitness News provides the following transcript of a video message by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves “to family members of Vincentian crew men and women on cruise ships and other vessels anxious to return home”. The video was posted on the “Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines” at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
(Please scroll for the video.)
“I very much would like to speak directly to the families, to the partners, to everyone connected to our nationals who are crew members on various cruise lines, those who have been employed in oil rigs and those were working elsewhere and making arrangements in groups to return to St. Vincent and the Grenadines because of COVID-19.
“I want to begin by saying very, very early, I made the point that citizenship counts for something and we are not going to do like other — some other countries and say we’re not accepting our nationals who are overseas. In fact, I explicitly stated we would welcome your return. And that is the fundamental principle. What we have been doing is to seek to work out the requisite protocols with the various cruise lines. We have been working them out with other employers. And these protocols involve, of course, your employers taking care of the transportation coming to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That’s their responsibility in international law. In fact, in the case of the cruise lines, the U.S. authorities insist that that be done.
“The medical protocols have all got to be worked out. And then, when you’re quarantined in St. Vincent and Grenadines for 14 days, we’re requesting — and at least one of the cruise lines which has indicated that it is going to bring a charter with a batch first of about 299 — that they will pay for the quarantining in hotels, guest houses and the Chief Executive Officer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority has identified accommodation.
“There have been additional requirements placed by the authorities in the United States on the cruise lines. And we were told, for instance, by a particular cruise line, that they couldn’t get back to us this week. They have to get back to us on Monday. This is the cruise line which has the bulk of our nationals employed and we will find out what is the latest position from them.
“Some cruise lines want to drop off the crewmembers from island to island on a cruise ship. In the case of one of them, they want to come directly, as I say, with nearly 300 crew members. Obviously, all the protocols have to be put in place properly.
“There’s a lot of falsehood going around that the government is asking the cruise line to pay $150 a day for the crew members who come in. That’s not so at all. That is the price that the hotels have asked — EC$150 for three meals plus the accommodation per night for 14 nights. In fact, it is my understanding that that’s the position of almost every government in CARICOM, except one which just has a few persons coming back and they can, perhaps, absorb that costs. But for countries like us, where we have a lot coming back, it’s the obligation of the cruise line. And we are trying to work out all these details.
“I want you to be assured that we are doing our best. We are hard at it. I myself, I’m involved, I’ve spoken to a number of different officials engaged — Bishen John of the Port Authority is the point person whom I’ve appointed to address this matter.
“I want you to ignore a lot of falsehoods that you’re seeing propagated on social media, or people who are sending posts of one kind or another. It’s not helpful and don’t go about doing anything to undermine the discussions and negotiations, which we are having. Just be calm and we are trying to resolve what is a difficult situation. Be assured that I’m in your corner from the very beginning.
“Thank you very much.”