In 2020, during the lockdown period in India, when domestic and international air travel had been suspended, industry bodies – Maritime Association of Shipowners, Ship Managers and Agents (MASSA) + Foreign Ship-owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA), along with ATPI as a travel partner, embarked on ‘Mission – Relief of Seafarers’ by special chartered flights.
This mission was exclusively carried out to help seafarers stuck in Qatar to fly back to India, between June and October 2020. During the lockdown, seafarers were stuck on their ships at various ports in UAE, Holland, USA, Belgium, Italy, and other ports across Europe, Gulf, and the US in a financially and psychologically distressed state.
In the first phase of this relief mission, Qatar Airways flights brought these seafarers from various places like Amsterdam, Rome, New York, and LA to Doha, and later chartered flights by Indigo Airlines were commissioned to airlift them from Doha and bring them to Mumbai and Delhi.
For the record, with the support of the four organizations, over 20,000 seafarers, along with over 1000 Indian nationals, who were stranded in Qatar in a financially distressed state were transported safely back to their homes on over 100 chartered flights between 3 June 2020 and October 2020.
The highest number of seafarers airlifted in a single day during these 5 months was 1378. After that, seafarers were permitted to board Vande Bharat Flights to fly back to India and chartered flights were no longer needed.
For making this relief mission possible, Amitabh Kumar, Director General Of Shipping, was recently felicitated in the presence of P Kumaran, High Commissioner of India to Singapore along with Fathi Atti, Sr Vice President, Qatar Airways, Aero-political and Corporate Affairs, Doha; Capt Kapil Kaushik, Ex Defence Attaché at Indian Embassy in Doha; and Manish Puri, Vice President – Sales, IndiGo Airlines, Mumbai held in Mumbai.
On this occasion, Capt Mahendra Pal Bhasin, Chairman, MASSA said,”I would like to thank Amitabh Kumar. He listened to our problem and a solution too, in the form of chartered flights.”
Captain Agyapal Singh Khuman, Chairman, ATPI said “If you have a great team, then you can easily do any difficult task. These are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job, and we must make life easier for them, and all these
organizations facilitated exactly that during this rescue mission of seafarers. Tough times call for new ideas that can be implemented even in highly adverse conditions and that was the whole effort.”
Sea News Feature, April 2