Fourth Filipino mariner dies onboard cruise ship

A Filipino female mariner has reportedly committed suicide inside her cabin after her chartered repatriation flight was suspended twice.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. made the announcement in his official Twitter account saying, “It is my sad duty to report that a 28-year-old female mariner committed suicide in her cabin in the ship where she’s had to stay because repatriation flights back to the Philippines have been suspended again. I know our quarantine facilities are jampacked; just don’t know why.”

Earlier, the country’s top envoy said, “RIP. Ms. Mariah Jocson took her life onboard Harmony of the Seas where crew detained awaiting PH repeatedly rescinded repatriation. Second suicide. We are tartly reminded that Filipino resilience is no excuse to stretch them to breaking point. Di sila goma; tao sila [They are humans, not rubber].”

Mariah Jocson was a newly hired waitress who died last June 10, 2020, onboard the Harmony of The Seas, a Royal Caribbean Lines cruise ship anchored off Barbados, Bahamas. She, along with thousands of fellow seafarers who remain at sea in various ports abroad, was in the process of being repatriated back to the country, according to the web site

The web site reported, “There was an ‘Alpha, Alpha, Alpha’ medical emergency broadcast on the ship’s PA [public address] system.  Later, the captain publicly announced that the crew member had died. Her family reportedly have been notified. There was no official announcement or explanation regarding her cause of death. She was from Mandaluyong, Philippines.”

It was reported there was a prayer tribute by crew members of the Harmony of the Seas for Jocson.

Norway Ambassador Bjørn Jahnsen tweeted Locsin. “This breaks my heart. Norway is a seafaring nation with decades of maritime collaboration with the Philippines, and I join you and the family and loved ones of the deceased in your mourning.”

Another netizen, cognizant of the slow medical testing in many cruise ships, including those anchored in Manila Bay, said “Sad sad sad. But how are we to unblock the upstream logjam? Invisible to the harbor pilots in Palace or IATF [Inter Agency Task Force]? Maybe Duterte should unleash a little steam next Cabinet presser. #RIPMariahJocson 2nd seafarer suicide. Prayers”

Aside from Jocson, a second seafarer, Kiko Payongayong, a long-term employee of Crystal Cruises, has also recently died, according to a Go Fund Me page created by one of the crew member’s friends.

“Kiko Payongayong reportedly worked for Crystal Cruises as a waiter from 27 years. He was fifty years old at the time of his death. He left behind a wife and four children,” the web site said.

The Harmony of the Seas is currently in Barbados with around 2,000 crew members still aboard waiting to be returned home, including many crew members who transferred from the Vision of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas, and Rhapsody of the Seas. She (Jocson) reportedly previously was on the Rhapsody.

The Royal Caribbean “Crew Repatriation Weekly Update” dated June 5, 2020, lists over 20 flights from Barbados to the Philippines in the next three weeks through June 30th.

“This has been a difficult six weeks for many crew members who have remained on cruise ships during the period of cruising suspension which is now approaching 90 days. In addition to this incident, there have been eight other crew members who reportedly ended their lives and one employee who attempted to do so since May 1st,” said Jim Walker, who posted his story in Maritime Death.

He said a week ago, a long-term employee from the Philippines died suddenly on a Crystal Cruises ship.

“There is speculation regarding the crew member’s cause of death. Crystal Cruises has not made an official statement to date.”

Two weeks ago, a Filipino crew member died on the Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady.

Shortly before that, a crew member on the Vasco da Gama cruise ship who reportedly jumped from deck 12 of the ship and landed on a cargo container located on the pier of the Tilbury Docks in the UK. The nationality of the crew was not given. 

It was last reported that the Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) ship employee is in the hospital in London. 

According to the web site: “Two weeks ago, a Filipino crew member died on the Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady last May 22, 2020 in Miami while a Filipino galley employee on the AIDAblu also died in Hamburg Germany around May 16, 2020.”

So far, four Filipinos, out of an estimated 250,000 who were at sea when the coronavirus was first announced have died due to their lengthy stay onboard their cruise ships while waiting repatriation flights to Manila and Clark. Others have died of different causes.

The official number of cruise ship, according to the Miami Herald, is 259, or an average of crew members of 300,000. On the other hand, merchant ships  have about 150,000 seafarers of various nationalities, according to the International Chamber of Shipping, adding roughly another 150,000 are stuck on shore, waiting to get back to work.


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