The AIDAmar cruise ship gets ready for its crew in Rostock, Germany, after a months-long coronavirus break.  (AP)

The AIDAmar cruise ship gets ready for its crew in Rostock, Germany, after a months-long coronavirus break. (AP)

Newlead Castellano crew members have been stranded for several months near Savannah, Georgia. (AP)

Newlead Castellano crew members have been stranded for several months near Savannah, Georgia. (AP)

People aboard the Norwegian Epic cruise ship wait on their balconies in Miami, Florida. It feels like they’ll never get home! (AP)

People aboard the Norwegian Epic cruise ship wait on their balconies in Miami, Florida. It feels like they’ll never get home! (AP)

Cruise ships stuck near Athens, Greece. About 200,000 seafarers are stranded at sea around the world. (AP)

Cruise ships stuck near Athens, Greece. About 200,000 seafarers are stranded at sea around the world. (AP)

A cargo ship approaches Athens, Greece. Around 150,000 people are stuck on shore, waiting to get back to work on ships. (AP)

A cargo ship approaches Athens, Greece. Around 150,000 people are stuck on shore, waiting to get back to work on ships. (AP)

Stuck on Ships

Posted: September 1, 2020

With a pandemic in full swing, airplanes may be empty, but ships are full. They’re loaded with cargo and crew. Seafarers are traveling the world . . . with no place to go, you might say. About 200,000 people have been stuck aboard ships. Risk of spreading the coronavirus makes it almost impossible to rotate crews.

Aboard the world’s largest container ship, Jens Boysen is the captain. During 167 days at sea he was also doctor, dentist, psychiatrist, and entertainment director.

“We had to pull the teeth of two of my men since we could not get them to the dentist. We organized bingo games, we organized horse races. . . . We had karaoke evenings,” says the captain of the Emma Maersk.

Captain Boysen and his crew are back on dry land. Others—not yet.

Marwin Lagon, a father of three, is aboard the Okee Alba in Hong Kong. Asked how long he has been aboard, he responds with a weary “11 months.”

Prianka is the first officer on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico. She says she has been at sea since December. “Immigration authorities are not working right now.”

Hannah Gerlach was aboard the Basle Express. “You don't know any more when your contract will end, when you have the chance to see your family again.”

Seafarers keep ships moving, connecting raw materials to manufacturers to retail stores. Did you know that 90 percent of goods travel by sea? They do—slowly!

Shipping is really important. And seafarers are up to the job.

Captain Boysen says, “Since we have a duty, we have a mission as seafarers to keep the supply chains running. We could make a difference just by continuing to sail.”

But seafarers have done their part, says the weary captain: “We have done our job. Now it’s the job of the governments around the world to make crew changes possible so we can get home to our families after this very long time.”