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Covid quarantine protocols delaying return of deceased seafarers to their families

15 June 2021

The remains of a seafarer have finally been delivered to his family two months after he died, after several countries refused to allow the disembarkation of his remains because of Covid protocols.

After completing a crew change, Captain Angelo Capurro joined the MV Ital Libera in South Africa leaving for a two-week journey across the Indian Ocean. During the voyage several crew members began to show symptoms of Covid. At least two members tested positive, and before the ship reached Singapore, Capt Capurro died at sea.

With the help of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the shipowners, Italia Marittima applied to several countries to disembark the body so it could be returned to the family immediately. The Ministry unsuccessfully appealed to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Philippines, and South Africa.

After the Ministry informed the company of the rejections, Italia Marittima declared a force majeure, cancelling the commercial voyage and sending the vessel on a humanitarian mission from Indonesia to Italy to return Capt Capurro's body to his family.

David Heindel, chairman of the seafarers section at the ITF, said: 'This is not the first case of a seafarer's body not being returned to their family. A similar case involves the Romanian master of the general cargo ship Vantage Waved, who died of cardiac arrest onboard in April. The vessel remains anchored in China awaiting approval for disembarkation.

Mr Heindel said: 'Situations such as this call for a strong reaction from the industry and labour. These countries live off of our labour to transport the necessary materials needed for the function of their citizens and economy but when it's not convenient they turn their backs on us without a care.'