Dear Valued MSC Cruises Family Member
From the team members at Shosholoza Ocean Academy and your family at MSC Cruises, we trust you and your loved ones have been staying safe and healthy.
It is with regret that we inform you of the following news:
MSC Cruises advised today that the delay to approve cruise operations in South Africa had led to the Company cancelling all its remaining sailings for the 2020/21 season.
In late December 2020, the Company showcased an onboard inspection of the vessels’ rigorous and robust protocol to the various authorities in South Africa including the Department of Transport, Department of Health, Port Health, Department of Home Affairs together with the South African Maritime Safety Authority.
The company have appreciated our interaction with government and thank them for their hard work and diligence during these difficult times.
While authorities indicated that they were satisfied with the protocol MSC Cruises had presented, they were awaiting approval to resume.
Ross Volk, Managing Director, MSC Cruises South Africa, said “We are as disappointed as our guests will be that we have had to cancel their holiday plans despite our strenuous efforts to demonstrate that we can operate safely and ensure the wellbeing of our customers, our crew and the destinations we visit with our industry-leading, proven and effective protocol. We did our best to resume operations in South Africa safely and responsibly so that it was possible to sail in the region, just as we did in Europe.
“Unfortunately, and after already having cancelled the first half of the season while waiting for the final government approval, we were left with no option other than to cancel all remaining sailings of the local season through April 2021.
This was a difficult decision to make. We had invested in preparing as much as possible while the relevant authorities conducted their analysis and reached their final conclusion, but it would now take between an additional 45 to 60 days at best to complete preparations and this effectively makes it impossible to perform the remaining sailings.”
MSC Cruises has worked since March 2020 in close collaboration with the relevant authorities in South Africa for approval of its comprehensive health and safety protocol designed for the wellbeing of its guests and crew.
Based on initial positive responses received from the relevant government authorities, the company started the logistic process of potentially resuming the South African season and as such planned to embark crew members on MSC Orchestra to prepare the vessel. This included the process of crew members being asked to complete their medical examinations and obtain the new medical certifications.
Unfortunately, the announcement of the return to COVID-19 lockdown level 3 regulations in South Africa meant the company had to review these planned embarkations last minute.
It was agreed with the Crew Management Office in Sorrento and the Crew Development and Strategy Department in Geneva that all crew who had spent money on their medicals would be refunded the PCR test portion of the examination costs. The Shosholoza Ocean Academy team have been working on this and the required information has been forwarded to the Fleet Payroll Department for their action.
We understand that tremendous financial burdens have been placed on our crew members due to the global halt of cruise operations. Whilst we have received requests for the entire cost of the medical examinations to be refunded, MSC Cruises must advise that since the medical certification, for the most part, is still valid for 2 years, this refund would not be a possibility.
MSC Cruises is still planning a phased return to service for the global fleet in the months ahead, pending government authorisations and an easing of travel restrictions in the areas the company operates in.
For this reason, MSC Cruises can assure those crew members that are holding the new valid medical certifications that they will be prioritised for embarkation under the following conditions:
- The phased return to service of the company’s cruise vessels and the crewing number requirements associated.
- The easing of travel restrictions and regulations by local and international governments as it affects domestic citizens.
- The alignment of the MSC Cruises Medical Department Standard Operating Procedures with the authorizations to embark crew.
For all those crew remaining at home, the following reminders regarding your eventual re-embarkations on the remainder of the fleet when, pending authorization from all the government authorities involved in various countries around the world, operations eventually fully resume:
- 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 full operations
- If you completed your contract during the halt of operations or have not yet embarked during 2021 you will be rotated into the schedule according to the operational needs once MSC Cruises resumes full operations.
- If you are a candidate crew member, having been approved for embarkation but no contract has been provided, you will potentially be scheduled into the rotation, after first giving priority to returning crew as outlined above. You should consider your embarkation on hold indefinitely. As re-opening plans develop further and more vessels return to service, we will be in touch with further information.
Please note that, if your contact details are up to date, there is no need to contact your agency. We will be in touch with you the moment we receive a new engagement proposal/contract for you.
While at home, keep your documents current as much as possible – such as your passport, etc. Please note that a new medical certificate procedure has been implemented by MSC Cruises. The Shosholoza Ocean Academy administration team will provide you with details of this procedure when they contact you regarding an engagement proposal.
MSC Cruises is committed to retain all their talented and committed crew and has vowed to continue working to welcome you all back on board when ships in the fleet return to service.
Please stay healthy and safe.
Chief Operations Officer
Shosholoza Ocean Academy