COVID-hit Spanish fleet In Seychelles facing economic losses amid work disruption
Vessels were used to quarantine the active cases in a demarcated zone just outside Port Victoria. (File photo: Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The challenges facing the Spanish fleet and crew in Seychelles that is suffering from cases of COVID-19 include restricted movements and higher costs, a company official said.
The deputy manager of the Organisation of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC), Miguel Herrera, told SNA that the company has seen an increase in medical, travel and transport costs, leading to economic losses as a consequence of extended stops due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following a crew change in June, 97 out of 207 West African mariners joining the Spanish fishing fleet in Seychelles tested positive for COVID-19. Consequently, vessels were used to quarantine the active cases in a demarcated zone just outside Port Victoria.
"Our companies have made the necessary arrangements to ensure that fishing can continue during these difficult times, to avoid food shortage and the dire socio-economic consequences that will issue from a prolonged disruption of activities," said Herrera.
"At present, the crew of three of the boats have been released and they will be able to resume fishing soon. We hope that the other boats will be able to leave as soon as further checking of other crew rends negative results. Three purse seiners will sail on Friday following clearance from local authorities," he added.
Herrera said it is difficult at this stage to evaluate the cost of the impacts though it is clear that COVID-19 is having extensive negative consequences on the economy of the company.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, OPAGAC has worked with the local authorities in the countries of origin and destination of the crew to ensure that transfers are made under strict health and safety standards, he said. Ensuring that all measures set by the local health authorities are met, crew members are tested for COVID-19 in their country of origin, are required to wear masks while travelling and are retested upon arrival for a crew change.
"Unfortunately, COVID testing is not an exact science and there are false negatives and positives. Thanks to the arrangements that we made with the Department of Health and the Spanish Doctor (Instituto Social de la Marina) based in Seychelles, we were able to identify some crew potentially infected for COVID on arrival and take the required precautionary measures," he said.
According to the last update given by the Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, on Tuesday, there are 39 remaining active cases among the seafarers. Gedeon said that 58 seafarers have recovered and they are already back at work.
Fisheries is the second top contributor to the economy of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, but with the lack of visitors travelling to the island nation, the sector is presently one of the main foreign exchange earners.