The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), which is hosting three mega cruise ships, the Royal Carribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, Celebrity Infinity and Carnival Splendor, for the next four days, is in the midst of carrying out the largest crew sign-off exercise involving 4,827 seafarers who are returning home after the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The next few weeks are only going to get busier on the cruise liner front, with nine more ships — of the 13 that planned to visit Mumbai — already en route with 7,000 Indians on board.
Port of refuge
“The Mumbai port is truly the port of refuge for our stranded seafarers. This is by far the largest crew evacuation exercise. We have already signed off 1,819 seafarers from six ships that have called in at Mumbai till date,” said MbPT Chairman Sanjay Bhatia.
It all started on April 23, when 145 Indian seafarers stranded on the U.S. cruise ship Marella Discovery reached Mumbai and were allowed to sign off after weeks of being on board the ship, docked at the outer anchorage. “The crew members were actually off the ship in three hours. The ship had left the port in eight hours,” said commander Nevil Malao, vice-president, J.M. Baxi and Company Ltd., who led the operation.
Commander Malao now has two ships under his watch: Celebrity Infinity and Anthem of the Seas. Another cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas, belonging to Royal Caribbean Cruises, dropped off 870 crew members at Mumbai last week. On May 12, J.M. Baxi and Company helped 168 Indian crew members disembark from Seven Seas Voyager, operated by Florida-based Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a unit of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
The MbPT has crossed the handling of 9 lakh tonnes of cargo in the post-lockdown phase. “A large range of cargo, from bulk lentils to hot and cold rolled coils, plates, base oil, sugar, bitumen, and vehicles to a variety of projects have been handled within the limited storage areas with assistance and support of dedicated staff and officers,” Mr. Bhatia said.