A crew member on the Island Princess died on Wednesday  according to several crew members wishing to remain anonymous.  The crew member’s name is Candido Catambay. There are no facts publicly available regarding the precise circumstances of the crew member’s death.

It appears that the Island Princess is one of many Carnival Corporation-owned cruise ships which are in the process of finally repatriating crew members home.  This particular crew member appears to have been on the cruise ship for a minimun of at least the past 90 days.

One crew member who informed me of the death stated: “Princess says it’s ‘natural causes,’ but what is natural when you have been kept on board the ship away from home for such a long time and your physical and mental health is damaged day after day.”

The Island Princess is currently anchored off the coast of the Philippines near Manila. There are currently twenty-five  cruise ships, including eleven Carnival Corporation-owned ships which are operated by Princess Cruises, positioned near Manila with many thousands of crew members aboard. In addition to the Island Princess, there are ten other cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises near Manila at this time: the Pacific Princess, Regal Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sea Princess, Majestic Princess, Sun Princess, Diamond Princess, Golden Princess, Crown Princess, and Ruby Princess. 

The Island Princess last sailed from south Florida on April 20th and eventually reached the Philippines earlier this month. Carnival avoided the CDC’s guidelines which would have required the company to fly its crew members via charter flights home by sailing them on a dozens ships to the Philippines. Carnival saved money but subjected the crew to additional stress by keeping them on the ships away from their families.

Princess Cruises declined to respond to our request for an explanation regarding this latest crew member death.

Including this incident, there have been at least six to as many as ten other cases were it appears that crew members may have decided to end their own lives since April 30th, as well as one attempted suicide:

CMV galley cook on Vasco da Gama June 17, 2020. CMV claims that he died due to a heart attack.

Royal Caribbean waiter on Harmony of the Seas June 9, 2020.

Crystal Cruises waiter June 2, 2020.

Virgin Voyages hotel utility on Scarlet Lady May 22, 2020.

Cruise and Maritine Voyages provision manager attempted suicide on Vasco da Gama May 20, 2020 .

AIDA galley employee on AIDAblu May 18, 2020.

Royal Caribbean assistant waiter on Mariner of the Seas May 10, 2020. Royal Caribbean stated that the crew member, a young man, reportedly died of “natural causes.”

Princess Cruises waiter on Regal Princess May 10, 2020.

Carnival Cruise assistant shore manager on Carnival Breeze May 9, 2020.

Royal Caribbean electrician on Jewel of the Seas April 30, 2020.

Four days ago, the Miami Herald reported that at least 42,000 crew members remain trapped on cruise ships without paychecks, and some still are suffering from COVID-19, three months after the industry shut down.

The reasons for the failure to repatriate the crew are a combination of the following developments: (1) the cruise lines delayed repatriation efforts after the CDC initially issued its “no sail” order on May 13th for only 30 days. The companies hoped to resume sailing as soon as possible and didn’t repatriate their crew members, intending to put them back to work. Then the companies claimed surprise when the CDC extended the no sail order until July 25th; (2) the CDC required cruise lines to repatriate crew only though private charters which most companies refused to do claiming its was “too expensive,” and the cruise CEO’s, chief compliance officers and chief medical officers refused to sign acknowledgments indicating that the companies intended to comply with the CDC guidelines; and (3) countries began closing borders to limit the spread of COVID-19.

These deaths should be a shameful embarrassment for the cruise lines which continues to withold literally billions of dollars in refunds to its customers. Yesterday, Jim Cramer of CNBC announced that Carnival Corporation had a record $4.4 billion loss in the second quarter of this year with $7.6 billion in available liquidity, including $2.9 billion in refunds owed to customers.

Carnival Corporation, like all cruise companies, has struggled to remain afloat following the coronavirus pandemic. It is using its customer’s refunds to try and remain viable. All of its brands, like Princess Cruises, have tried to minimize expenses incurred in promptly repatriating their crew members. Unfortunately, there will be additional crew deaths as a result of the cruise lines devoting their depleting liquidity to re-start their operations.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has initiated the “Enough is enough” campaign, in recognition of “thousands of seafarers worldwide remain stuck on board, unable to go ashore, seek medical attention or return home.”As of June 16th, it is no longer acceptable that seafarers are forced to continue to work on ships, according to the ITF.

The General Secretary of the IMO, Kitack Lim, has stated that the shipping industry is on the verge of “a humanitarian crisis,” with an increase in “fatigue and issues with mental health.”

The ITF states: “We are clear – if a seafarer wants off a ship, then the ITF, our affiliate unions and the ITF inspectorate will do everything we can to assist them. We know that you need to get off these ships, and we will help you to do so where can.” Crew member can contact the ITF here.

The IIF has been criticized over the years for not responding to seafarers’ complaints. Nonetheless, we recommend that crew members contact the ITF as well as bring attention to their predicaments via social media and by contacting the media.

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