All of us at Shosholoza Ocean Academy, the exclusive manning and training agency for MSC Cruises in South Africa, trust you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe.
Just over 3 months have passed since the fleetwide halt of all ship operations due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 and the response of various governments to the pandemic.
Since 14 March, our focus has been on helping all our crew return home to their families for the duration of our halt to global cruise operations.
Please review the attached Crew Update file for the latest on our repatriation efforts.
We are extremely pleased to announce that we have at this point returned all South African crew members residing in the country back home and the last of these will be released from their quarantine facility 4 July. The only South Africans still on board currently are those 65 designated as part of the Minimum Safe Manning requirements for the fleet. There are currently no COVID-19 positive cases onboard and no crew with symptoms, however all strict health and safety protocols are in place to ensure the continued health and safety of our crew.
Individual non-South African nationals assigned to the Shosholoza Ocean Academy Manning Agency remain on board due to specific difficulties and challenges remaining in arranging their repatriation to their countries. We will continue to seek opportunities to return them home.
Some of you might be aware that MSC Cruises is planning a phased re-opening of cruise operations, pending authorization from all the government authorities involved in various countries around the world.
As part of the planned re-start, MSC Cruises has also revealed that a new comprehensive and enhanced health and safety protocol is being developed in collaboration with relevant national health authorities and with the support of a team of external medical experts. This protocol will cover all aspects of the cruise from the booking phase through to disembarkation and the return home. It will also include all aspects of life on board and the precautionary measures will ensure the health and wellbeing of guests and crew including enhanced sanitation measures, guidelines for life on board as well as enhanced medical facilities and health screenings for guests and crew. The full details of these new precautionary health and safety measures will be announced in the coming weeks.
To keep you up to date with news and developments and answer some questions you might have, we would like to share the following with you:
1. When will MSC Cruises resume normal operations?
The emergence and global spread of COVID-19 has challenged the cruise industry in an unprecedented way. At this time, we are unsure of when MSC Cruises will be able to resume operations and cruise normally. MSC is monitoring the global situation and expects it to eventually open in phases. As more information related to re-opening becomes available, MSC will be in touch to provide it.
2. Do I still have a job?
3. When will I embark again?
If your contract was interrupted due to the halt of operations and you signed off before the end of your contract with your freeze deal, you will be prioritized for re-embarkation when MSC Cruises resumes operations.
If you completed your contract during the halt of operations or have not yet embarked during 2020 you will be rotated into the schedule according to the operational needs once MSC Cruises resumes operations.
4. Do I need to contact my agency to check when I am embarking again?
If your contact details are up to date, there is no need to contact the agency. We will be in touch with you the moment we receive a new engagement proposal/contract for you.
5. Should I get another job while at home?
We encourage you to seek job opportunities while you are at home. Since we cannot be 100% sure of when MSC will resume operations, it’s an excellent idea to supplement your income at home.
6. If I get another job will I be off the embarkation list?
There is absolutely no risk to your status as a crewmember if you get another job while at home. When we have an engagement proposal for you, we will be letting you know.
7. What else should I do while at home?
While at home, keep your documents current as much as possible – such as your passport, etc. You can also still access the crew app if you want to work on your English or German language skills! If they are expiring soon, please do not spend money on renewing your STCW or Medical Certificates. Only renew them when we contact you about an engagement proposal/contract.
8. Do I need to get tested for COVID19?
Refer to our national and local guidelines for testing information and requirements in South Africa.
There will be mandatory testing for those who are embarking again, and there are many new procedures for the pre-embarkation process and for all onboard sanitation and health for both guests and crew. You will be informed and updated about these requirements by your agency when you receive a new engagement proposal.
9. I read that MSC Cruises is starting again on August 1. Is this true? Can I volunteer?
MSC Cruises is making plans to potentially begin operations with one or two ships in the Mediterranean in August. Crewmembers remaining onboard among six ships in the Mediterranean were asked if they would like to be considered for the start-up. As the company assesses the manning needs, there may be potential assignments for crewmembers who would not face travel restrictions into Europe and who are under ‘freeze deal’ or are returning crew. MSC Cruises is not currently recruiting, contrary to what the article says. If you are offered an engagement proposal by MSC Cruises your agency will let you know and help guide you through the new process on embarkation.
10. I read that MSC Cruises is starting again on August 1 with 14 ships. Can I go?
Unfortunately, this is not true
Shosholoza Ocean Academy Manning Agency offices have not re-opened yet, but we do have staff working remotely. Should you have any further enquiries, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We will update you on our agency operations as we move forward.
MSC Cruises thanks you for your continued commitment.
Chief Operations Officer