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Team members of Sharjah-based Ocean Oilfield before returning home from their project in Duba Port in Saudi Arabia last week Courtesy: Ocean Oilfield Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: More than 100 workers are back home in Sharjah after being stranded for almost three months in Saudi Arabia where they had gone for a project.

After coordination between a number of UAE and Saudi entities, the 105-member crew of Sharjah-based Ocean Oilfield, which specialises in offshore and onshore projects, arrived at Sharjah International Airport on a charted Air Arabia repatriation flight on July 16.

Grounded situation

They had in February travelled to Duba Port in north-western Saudi Arabia for a rig refurbishment project. The plan was to return to Sharjah in April but the travel suspension under the coronavirus pandemic saw them grounded for months.

Their company Ocean Oilfield arranged accommodation, food and medical support for all the team members until their return. Though the food was arranged by the company, they were also provided with the facilities for self-cooking.

Back home

Indian employee Aldo Anthony, 56, said he finally “got good sleep after a long time” after landing in Sharjah.

“I’m very happy, my mind got relaxed. I’m very thankful to our directors for their effort in bringing back us,” he added.

There was not much to do while stranded and Anthony was “anxiously waiting to hear a call saying, ‘flight ready’.” He spent most of the free time cooking, only venturing out to buy vegetables and fish from the market.

Another staff member, 31-year-old Mohammad Junaid, who is also from India, said he spent the time cooking, working remotely and managing the 105 crew.

‘Huge relief’

Ocean Oilfield said the crew was repatriated after obtaining the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship’s approval.

“The workers arrived in Sharjah much to the joy of their family members. This brought a huge relief to the workers whose return was uncertain for some time now,” M I Mohammad, Chairman, Ocean Oilfield, said.

Ocean Oilfield is a division of Amwaj Group, a family business corporation established four decades ago in the Middle East.

Though the Kingdom has partially opened flights for countries repatriating their citizens, many of the stranded foreigners were unable to fly back due to the difficulty in obtaining approval.

Getting approval

“Obtaining approval is a tough task. After hearing the plight of the 105 workers stuck in the Kingdom, Mr Yaqoub Abdulla of Sharjah Freezone Authority helped us to make all arrangements to obtain the ICA approval. It brought an end to the anxious wait for their family members,” Mohammad said.

“Our team is extremely thankful to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UAE federal government, the Sharjah Airport authorities, Air Arabia, Sharjah Freezone, and Sharjah Police, who stepped up to help them in the time of dire necessity,” he added.

Special flight

A senior Air Arabia official said the carrier ensured safe travel for the passengers.

“We know it is a vulnerable situation. We have to be extremely careful while repatriating the stranded passengers due to the corona situation. The special charter flight was the first service to fly out from Saudi after the country [suspended] international flights and Air Arabia has successfully operated the service with utmost care and diligence,” Obadah Arwani, Area Manager, Air Arabia – UAE, said.