Shortly after setting sail on a cargo ship, a 61-year-old Italian sea captain came down with symptoms consistent with COVID. That was April 2, 2021. On April 8, MV Ital Libera captain Angelo Capurro was dead and his crew stranded in Indonesian waters. In a piece for CNN, Teele Rebane and Livia Borghese report the case shines a light "on the conditions of seafarers" even late in the pandemic. They detail the pleas of Capurro's wife to ship owner Italia Marittima that her sick husband be permitted to disembark from the ship to seek medical attention (the designated medical officer on his ship was ... Capurro); it wasn't granted. She called Italia Marittima again after his death requesting that his body be removed from the ship. "That's the beginning of a grotesque and inhuman odyssey," says a lawyer for the family.
In a statement, Italia Marittima says it was joined by a number of Italian embassies in trying to get the OK from a country to disembark the body so the remains could be repatriated. It says Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines and South Africa said no due to local COVID restrictions. Ship and crew spent six long weeks off Jakarta looking for a place to take Capurro’s body ashore. On June 7, a force majeure was declared and the ship began sailing for Italy, where it arrived June 14. "Recovering his body, however, may not provide the answers the family is hoping for," such as whether he did indeed die of COVID. Write Rebane and Borghese, "There was no suitable place to keep a corpse on the Ital Libera, meaning Capurro's body remained in a storage room for six weeks." (Read more container ship stories.)