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       Goencho Avaaz is an umbrella organization of many NGOs and social organizations having pan Goa presence, working towards the betterment of Goa and Goan society. We share the common grief and pain inflicted upon all of us by this invisible enemy in the name of COVID-19. We understand total lockdown and closure of airports as one of the efficient methods to disrupt the chain of transmission and bring a halt to this menacing virus. We also applaud the efforts our government has made and the tough decisions it has undertaken in this regard.

                  We are aware of the government’s untiring efforts and commitment to bring home hundreds of on shore based Indians from countries such as China, Iran, Italy, etc. And also the high risk operation in ferrying back hundreds of foreign nationals stranded in India as in the case of Israel, during this difficult times. As you may be aware, there are thousands of Indians including those of Goan origin who are still stranded on the ships especially cruise ships. Sadly some of the crew members are already sick with COVID-19 and still on board the ships. Few of the crew members have sadly lost their lives to this virus and their bodies are still on board. Some are hospitalised in various countries and in critical condition. The many others on board, who are healthy as of now, however are possessing serious threat of contracting virus from the infected ones, are under huge mental trauma and the anxiety is taking it’s toll on their mental health, as also on their family members and relatives back home. The more the time they spend on the ship the more is their agony and more is the risk of them contracting this dangerous COVID-19. The chances of survival after contracting the sickness on board is very slim for want of proper medical facilities. Fearing the danger of the virus, even their employers, viz. the shipping companies have put halt to their business operations and the ships are either anchored or harboured alongside in various countries.  

       We herein refer to the press report on mid-day about one Mr. Andrew Fernandes from Vakola, Mumbai being infected on board the cruise ship ‘Costa Favolosa’. He was shifted to the community centre only when his condition worsened. The report further gives insight of the problems faced on board the ship. Subsequent to this report, sadly Mr. Andrew Fernandes passed away in New York. Attached is the report for your kind perusal. In addition, there are two reported deaths on board Coral Princess and one more death reported of Goan  as we write this letter. Also, reports suggest that there are several COVID-19 positive cases on various ships.

       Considering the grave situation our seafarers are in, our team with around thirty years of merchant navy experience set out to document data of the ships, their locations, number of Indian crew, and if there is any COVID-19 case on board. Our intent is solely aimed at bringing to the knowledge of the Union Government of India the factual position, as to facilitate logistic and diplomatic efforts of the government, to enable safe and quick return of our seafarers. with no malice or prejudice intended towards any individual or entity and in the best interest of stranded seafarers, sincere and diligent attempt is made herein to source the information from the most authentic sources. Our study is detailed in a tabulated form and is attached herewith for your kind perusal. The table clearly depicts the ships and the crew stranded across the world. The crew on board is extremely fragile and it is only human to pay heed to the cries of help. As per our study, the crew stranded is upwards of 20,000 in approximately 200 ships . Further to the data provided in the table attached, we kindly request  you to requisition the data from the DG shipping and the shipping agencies providing crew to these ships. And then all these data be colated to negate any inadvertant errors. Also the data can be broken down to district/state level such that the exercise of repatriation can be carried out safely, more orderly and in quick time, with minimal resources and most importantly with minimal risk of spreading COVID-19.

We urge the government to understand the plight of these vulnerable crew and use diplomacy at the highest level in bringing back the hapless crew safely home at the soonest. And therefore we urge your good office to impress upon the prime Minister to open up our airports (safer airports) for the time it requires to bring back the sefarers quickly. We sincerely hope that the data attached will certainly help in mobilising resources and other logistics required so that the operation could be undertaken in quick time.

          And therefore in view of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and impending disaster in terms of possible losing lives of seafarers stranded on board and ashore in other countries we request as below:-

a.     Immediate directions to be issued to the Ambassadors to have the data of COVID-19 infected crew on board on various ships and to ensure that all such Indians get the proper medical treatment to avoid casulaties.

b.     To collaborate with the Ambassadors of respective countries where the passenger ships are stranded and the shipping companies to fascilitate smooth repatriation of seafarers back to India.

c.      To direct the DG shipping to ensure that none of the shipping crew is abandoned in any part of the world.

d.     To direct the respective state governments to avail the quarantine facilities in the home state of respective crew.

We request your good office to kindly initiate urgent steps to evacuate the stranded Indians in foreign countries including people of Goan origin by using all means available to the government, if need be even the Indian Navy ships patrolling in the high seas and ensure that our Indian brothers and sisters get united with their families back home, following all medical procedures, including the period of quarantine. Let this go down in history as the biggest ever exercise, akin to a rescue operation, and give that much needed confidence to the countrymen that our government is alive to the distress calls of our countrymen cross the globe.

Jai Goa, Jai Hind !

Here below is a link to the entire PDF document containing covering letter and 2 attachments