Mein Schiff Crew - Update 15 June 2020 – 1400 CEST
We hope to restart our operation soon and are in contact with all relevant authorities, whilst working on different scenarios in the background. The repeal of the current travel advice by the German Foreign Office, availability of ports and the relaxation of entry requirements in destinations are the main conditions for the restart of our operation. Our main priority is the health and safety of our guests and crew. Therefore, we are examining additional preventive measures which would go beyond our existing and already strict processes and protocols.
Three ships have been positioned in the German Bight for several weeks now. Mein Schiff 5 joined last week to allow crew repatriations from Germany to the respective home countries. This was the easiest solution in the current situation.
Mein Schiff Crew - Update 15 June 2020 – 1400 CEST
Apparently crew members of the "Mein Schiff" fleet were presented a contract addendum negotiated with the unions, a so-called "addendum" in March. Accordingly, the crew members had two options. Option 1, “The Termination Option”, ...
....after which the employment contract is terminated and the return trip to the home country is provided. The employment contract ends when the employee reaches her/his home country and the salary continues to be paid until that date. On the other hand, Option 2, the “stay-on-board option”, according to which you agree to stay on the ship, only work 40 hours a week in a 5-day week. In contrast to the full salary, you get the reduced basic salary and holiday pay.
Option 1, Termination Option could / can only be used in connection with an
immediate / a possible disembarkation.
Due to the worldwide restrictions (ports blocked, airports blocked etc.), a disembarkation wasn’t realistic anymore at the time of communication to the crew (3/24/20). The termination option 1 was therefore only on standby.
We always endeavored to keep our employees in employment.
The crew was being informed and discussed with in the plenum and individually on board.
How was the information to the crew regarding the addendum?
The crew was advised on board regarding the options. (see also question 3)
Support and care as well as the health of our crew is a top priority,
as well as the existential security. These are and were the background to the events.
How was option 2 perceived?
The various ITF contract options on board were explained to the entire crew.
We get feedback from a great amount of our crew on how happy and grateful they are, that their employment relationships are kept upright. This offer, option 2, ensures livelihoods.
How is the collaboration with the ITF?
We have been in constant contact with the ITF since the outbreak of the crisis; difficulties, Challenges or problems were discussed with the ITF.
Why is Mein Schiff 3 currently in Cuxhaven?
Mein Schiff 3 has been docked in Cuxhaven with around 2,900 crew members since Tuesday, 28 April 2020. The aim of this call was, and still is, the repatriation of crew members to their home countries. Due to the current global travel restrictions, this task is very challenging. Since 30 April, we have been aware of one crew member on board who was tested positive. This crew member has been disembarked and is currently in the isolation ward at the Helios Clinic in Cuxhaven. Upon request from the local authorities, a team from the Helios Clinic came on board to collect test swabs from the entire crew. TUI Cruises has received all test results on Wednesday, 6 May 2020, 0900am. Only nine of the former 2,900 crew members were infected with COVID-19. All crew members who were tested positive are in isolation on land. All are well; two crew members have mild symptoms.
TUI Cruises is in contact with all nine crew members and provides them, among other things, with SIM cards, which allow them to contact families at home. In addition, the crew members are being supported by the psychosocial service of the German Seafarer’s Mission at the request of TUI Cruises.
What will happen to the crew on Mein Schiff 3 now?
As of Monday, 11 May 2020, TUI Cruises and sea chefs have repatriated around 1,200 crew members from Mein Schiff 3 to their home countries. Additional repatriations are planned until mid-May.
Only crew members who have been tested negative twice for COVID-19 will be repatriated.
How many COVID-19 cases have been confirmed on board? Has the analysis of all tests been completed?
As of Wednesday, 6 May 2020, TUI Cruises has received all test results. Only nine of the former 2,900 crew members were infected with COVID-19. All crew members who were tested positive are in isolation on land. All are well; two crew members have mild symptoms.
How is the crew?
There are usually around 2,500 guests and around 1,000 crew members on board Mein Schiff 3. There are currently around 1,600 crew members on board who are accommodated in crew and guest cabins alike. The supply with food and items for daily use is secured. TUI Cruises is in constant contact with the ship’s management team and supports the crew in all respects during this challenging situation. Additional internet capacities have been organised to allow the crew to contact their families at home. Furthermore, there is support from pastoral workers. In general, the situation on board is calm and the ship’s management team keeps the crew informed on the latest developments.
Due to the current travel restrictions, the repatriation of crew members to their home countries was not possible during the recent weeks. Enabling the repatriation for the majority of the crew remains our highest priority. Only crew members who have been tested negative twice for COVID-19 will be repatriated.
What caused the outbreak of COVID-19 on board?
The cause of the outbreak of COVID-19 is currently under investigation. A tracing of potential infection chains is naturally part of this investigation. All potential causes will be examined, however due to the prevention measures, some causes can already been excluded.
Did crew members previously transfer from ship to ship?
TUI Cruises has decided to enable the majority of the crew to return home from Cuxhaven. A transfer from other ships to Mein Schiff 3 was organised to facilitate this effort. All transferred crew members were without symptoms for at least 14 days. Further, they were routinely examined and required to complete a public health questionnaire before the transfer. There was not a single confirmed case of COVID-19 until 30 April 2020. The entire crew across all ships has been isolated for at least four weeks. The last contact to the outside world was on 23 March 2020, when the last guests left. Since then, the crew was continuously monitored for potential symptoms.
Was there shore leave for crew in Tenerife?
Mein Schiff 3 was docked in Tenerife on 17 and 18 April. In Tenerife, crew from Mein Schiff 1, Mein Schiff 2 and Mein Schiff Herz transferred to Mein Schiff 3. This was no official shore leave and the crew transferred from ship to ship on the most direct route via the pier. The pier was cordoned off from gangway to gangway and was controlled by security.
Is it preferred to keep crew members on board rather than sending them home from a cost perspective?
The safety and security of the crew is TUI Cruises’ and sea chefs’ highest priority. Due to the current travel restrictions and reduced transport services, the repatriation of crew members poses a great challenge. The responsible teams have therefore decided to repatriate the crew with chartered flights and busses. Where possible, scheduled flights will be used. Due to regular and unforeseeable changes to travel restrictions in the home countries, short-notice delays are inevitable. This is beyond the control of TUI Cruises and sea chefs.
Why were crew members not sent home directly following the disembarkation of the guests?
As a result of the dramatically developing Corona crisis, the international situation has changed rapidly end of March. Immediately after the repatriation of our guests, many countries tightened their entry regulations, even for their own citizens. Additionally, some airlines ceased their operations and aircrafts were grounded. Where possible, TUI Cruises repatriated some crew members on the same flights that were chartered for the guests (e.g. 150 crew members left together with guests in Barbados). Additionally, TUI Cruises reviewed whether a speedy return to regular operations would be possible – therefore it would have been necessary to keep crew members with ongoing contracts on board.
Why was the crew not informed where the ships would sail and how and when they would return home?
As soon as sufficient information was available to the TUI Cruises’ Crisis Team and a resumption of operations was predictable, the responsible teams at TUI Cruises and sea chefs started the necessary organisation process for the repatriation of the crew. Several possible scenarios where developed, however they had to be rejected due to the negative feedback of involved embassies as well as port and local authorities.
We have finally arrived in Cuxhaven – why is the crew not repatriated, even though flight schedules clearly show return flights to various home airports.
Many airlines are continuously adjusting their flight schedules at short notice. It is therefore possible that flights are available online at first; however they are then often cancelled at very short notice. Due to the recent travel ban in Germany – most recently in effect until 14 June – only a very limited number of flights were able to depart. Therefore, the responsible teams at TUI Cruises and sea chefs decided to repatriate the majority of crew members with the help of chartered aircraft where possible.
We have finally arrived in Cuxhaven – why can Filipino and Indonesian or crew members from other nationalities not simply fly home?
The requirements for repatriation of citizens to their respective home countries are very complex. The Philippines, for example, require all citizens to quarantine for 14 days in a specific accommodation/quarantine centre. For repatriation flights to Indonesia and Ukraine, flights need to be closely coordinated with authorities, consulates and embassies. Additionally, some airlines demand strict requirements from their passengers, e.g. a negative COVID-19 test.
How restrictive are the entry regulations of each country?
TUI Cruises and sea chefs take their responsibility for ensuring a safe repatriation of all crew members very seriously. It is very important to the respective teams, that crew members are actually able to return to their final destination. If this is not guaranteed, other options will be considered. Some short-notice entry restrictions have resulted in some crew members being stranded at airports in other countries without the ability to continue their journey home. The responsible teams want to avoid this at all costs.
Are economic interests the main concern for crew repatriation?
TUI Cruises definitely wants to enable all crew members to return home. The responsible teams are working hard to facilitate this. Economic interests are not the main concern; however, the organisation and delays of repatriations are very challenging and time-consuming.
We have finally arrived in Cuxhaven – and suddenly, after the visits from Ferdinand Strohmeier, Dr Knauer, port agents and other local officials, there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 on board – Why does TUI Cruises not protect the crew?
To show their appreciation and gratitude, to present plans for crew repatriations and to answer the questions of the crew, Ferdinand Strohmeier (Vice President Operations, TUI Cruises) and Dr Michael Knauer (CEO, sea chefs) decided to pay Mein Schiff 3 a personal visit. This was explicitly agreed by and coordinated with the port health authority in Cuxhaven. Both wore facemasks as well as gloves and they both accessed the theatre via the external decks. During their address, they observed sufficient distance to the crew. All other essential personnel, such as port agents, pilots or officials from local authorities were only permitted to access the ship if they were without symptoms for at least 14 days, after completing the public health questionnaire and by observing the current outbreak prevention measures. We can categorically rule out, that the affected crew member has been infected by Ferdinand Strohmeier or Dr Michael Knauer, as the crew member reported the symptoms on 28 April, the same day as the described visit.
Why does TUI Cruises jeopardize the health of crew members and risks a potential infection with COVID-19 by transferring crew members?
Due to the current international situation and the latest travel restrictions, it is very difficult to repatriate crew members to their home countries safely. Therefore, crew members of the same nationalities were supposed to be repatriated by chartered aircrafts and busses together. TUI Cruises has decided to enable the majority of the crew to return home from Cuxhaven. A transfer from other ships to Mein Schiff 3 was organised to facilitate this effort. All transferred crew members were without symptoms for at least 14 days. Further, they were routinely examined and required to complete a public health questionnaire before the transfer. There was not a single confirmed case of COVID-19 until 30 April 2020. The entire crew across all ships has been isolated for at least four weeks. The last contact to the outside world was on 23 March 2020, when the last guests left. Since then, the crew was continuously monitored for potential symptoms.
We heard that a group of Russian/Ukrainian crew members (Entertainment) has arrived on board on 15 March and travelled via Madrid – Has TUI Cruises risked an infection by allowing this?
The international situation and the travel restrictions developed very dynamically in March. The outbreak prevention plan on board the Mein Schiff fleet was already adjusted at this time. The Ukrainian crew members arrived without any symptoms and had to complete a public health questionnaire upon arrival. They have spent the six weeks prior to their embarkation in Berlin, Germany. Germany was at this time not declared as a risk area by the Robert-Koch-Institute.
We have heard that the crew of the individual ships went ashore on Tenerife when changing from one ship to the other. Doesn't this mean that TUI Cruises is no longer isolated and exposes the crew to the risk of infection?
Mein Schiff 3 was in Tenerife on 17 and 18 April. In Tenerife, crew members from Mein Schiff 1, Mein Schiff 2 and Mein Schiff Herz changed over to Mein Schiff 3. This was not an official shore leave for the crew, but a straightforward change from ship to ship on the shortest way over the pier. Crew could only walk on a cordoned-off path from gangway to gangway on the pier - monitored by security.
What‘s next? Why is everything taking so long?
As of Saturday (2 May 2020), all 229 tests that were conducted on board returned negative. This means there is only one confirmed case on board the Mein Schiff fleet. To ensure the safety of the crew, all crew members will be tested on Sunday, 3 May 2020. The affected crew member is well and has been transferred to a hospital shore-side as a precaution. In the event of further positive test results, the crew will be informed immediately.
Shouldn’t all crew members be accommodated individually during an isolation? – Is this currently even possible on Mein Schiff 3? What does this mean for us?
The crew on Mein Schiff 3 is accommodated in both guest and crew cabins alike. As we currently have 2899 crew members on board (status: 30 April), it is not possible to accommodate every crew member individually. There is a policy in place for couples. If couples or two crew members were accommodated together previously, they are able to remain in the same cabin during isolation. Two people staying in the same cabin will therefore most likely be affected or not affected by an infection. As soon as crew numbers allow it, crew members will be accommodated individually.
We have heard that crew were able to leave the ship to go home on Sunday, 3 May 2020 from Cuxhaven? How can that be when the ship is in quarantine?
Since Sunday morning, medical teams of the Helios Clinic and the authorities are on board to take “swabs” from all crew members on board Mein Schiff 3. All crew members who have already tested negative and/or have submitted this swab and are without symptoms are officially allowed to leave under the requirement, that they go into home quarantine for 14 days after their arrival in their home country. Additionally, they are required to report to their local health authority. Their details are also available to the Helios Clinic in Cuxhaven as well as the local health authority.
When can we, and when can the crew, expect the test results of the swab tests of 3 May 2020?
The test results of the tests are expected to be available on Monday evening (04 May) at the earliest. TUI Cruises is in close contact with the Port Medical Service, the Helios Clinic and the local authorities. The crew will of course be informed immediately about the results and further measures.
Other cruise lines are bringing their crew members home with ships? Why not TUI Cruises?
TUI Cruises has repeatedly examined the possibility to transport crew to their home countries by ship. But due to the very dynamic changes of entry and travel regulations in the destinations, we have rejected this possibility as too unsafe. The responsible team on land is working very closely with the local embassies and ministries as well as the airlines to repatriate crew members from the Philippines and Indonesia. According to the latest information, a return journey of the crew by plane from Germany to these destinations is likely to be possible, so that TUI Cruises has decided to do so. Final arrangements are currently being made with the airlines and the local authorities. Charter flights to Indonesia are currently planned as well as flights to Manila - the latter are only possible after the end of the lockdown, which lasts until 10. May.