Joint press release from Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation
Government facilitates changeover of close to 200 seamen in Seychelles from Spanish vessels in Indian Ocean
  • The Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation have worked closely with ship owners to speed up procedures for the changeover of workers in the African country, which also restricted free movement of people as a result of COVID-19


  • Some 200 Spanish seamen arrived back in Madrid last night from Puerto Victoria (Seychelles), after spending five months fishing in tuna freezer vessels

​The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Spanish acronym: MAPA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation have helped orchestrate the changeover in the Seychelles of close to 200 Spanish seamen who were on-board Spanish vessels fishing in the Indian Ocean. The crew members, which needed to be replaced by fresh crew members, had to extend their normal four-month activity by an additional month, due to the restrictions on the free movement of people imposed in the Seychelles as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main area for tuna catches for the Spanish fleet is in the waters of the Indian Ocean. The 15 Spanish freezer vessels that fish in these waters have continued their operations normally after the declaration of the state of emergency, but the crew now needs to be changed over.

The two ministerial departments have worked closely with ship owners to expedite the formalities and obtain the corresponding authorisations for a charter plane to land in Puerto Victoria with 189 Spanish seamen to take over from the same number of compatriots that had been unable to get back to Spain for the last month and who landed in Madrid last night.

The long-distance tuna fleet asked for the support of the General Secretariat for Fisheries in order to change over the crews on the vessels operating in the Indian Ocean, which typically takes place in the Seychelles.

At the start of the pandemic, the Seychelles, despite only recording 11 cases of COVID-19, decreed a curfew throughout the country. This situation directly affected European ship owners since the European Union has signed one of the most important fisheries agreements with the country to allow 20 EU fishing vessels to fish there, of which 15 are Spanish tuna vessels.

These ship owners permanently have around 500 fishermen posted in the Indian Ocean, with crew changeovers every four months. The curfew took many of them by surprise just before this crew changeover, and hence most of the sailors have now spent more than five months in the area.

The Republic of Seychelles began its de-escalation plan on 4 May. The Spanish Embassy, in coordination with the General Secretariat of Fisheries of MAPA, accompanied the associations of ship owners in their negotiations with the Seychelles authorities to help foster the changeover of crews and the subsequent return of Spanish and French crew members.

The formalities carried out by the government led to a plane chartered by the ship owners arriving yesterday, on Sunday, in Puerto Victoria (Seychelles) with 189 replacement fishermen on-board, after having been tested for COVID-19. As soon as they arrived they were taken by bus from the airport to the fishing port to directly go on-board the vessels and remain there for between 14 and 21 days without stepping on land, and hence without having contact with the country’s population. On the return flight, the same number of Spanish seamen arrived back late last night in Madrid.





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