Stranded Kiwi oil rig engineer Alan Pearman says he's not resentful of the new visa category for foreign fishing crew to preferentially occupy New Zealand's in demand MIQ beds.
Yet the 68-year-old has been stuck in Australia since October and two months ago had to speak to his wife by phone as she hung upside down in the new car she had crashed, breaking her ribs and sternum.
"I should have come home. It's my place to be with my wife when this happens," Pearman says.
He has still not got home since the January 6 crash, and is spending his five week holiday off from Australia's North West Shelf oil fields in Brisbane where his son lives.
Pearman's story of hardship for Kiwi seafarers stuck across the globe unable to book MIQ spots is not unique.
Stories of ship workers caught in Myanmar's military coup, undergoing emergency surgery in Africa and being forced to watch a family member's funeral on a phone are littered through a database of at least 70 New Zealand seafarers stranded overseas at one point in the past year.
An added frustration for many came this week as 16 MIQ beds siphoned off the existing "Maritime Capacity" of 60 MIQ beds that are designated for international ship workers transiting for 72 hours in and out of New Zealand ports.
These exclusive 16 beds will service a new visa for international ship workers to fly into New Zealand, spend 14 days in quarantine, and then man vessels heading to the Pacific Islands.
Immigration NZ national border manger Peter Elms said this new border exception category came into force for 200 cargo ship crew for vessels that service the Pacific.
It was implemented on February 1, and allows replacement international crew to fly into New Zealand, undertake 14 days in MIQ, before transferring to the vessel they will work on.
"This border exception was created to maintain critical supply lines to the Pacific and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the region," Elms said.
However, master marina Kevin Judkins, who has been instrumental in compiling a database of all the stranded Kiwi seafarers, insists the new Pacific bound maritime visa is prioritising foreign seafarers.
"That Russian seafarers, Americas cup hangers on and the Wiggles have all received preferential treatment through MIQ, while New Zealand Seafarers and FiFo workers are trapped overseas unable to return, is an absolute travesty," Judkins said.
"I am sure that we are all aware that seafarers are classed as essential workers under the Covid regulations, yet there is no provision in current legislation to allow those same essential workers to receive priority placement in a Managed Isolation Facility."
Another Kiwi superyacht engineer the Herald spoke had flown his family to Mexico City to spend his time off from the ship with him, as he could not book MIQ spots.
A Kiwi worker on an Australian oil rig was also forced to watch his brother's funeral
A Maritime NZ spokesperson said the new visa category is a Government initiative to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the Pacific Islands.
"The New Zealand maritime sector has worked closely with our Pacific Island neighbours to ensure seafarers joining vessels sailing to the Pacific are COVID-free, regardless of their nationality," the spokesperson said.
Pearman says he didn't want to criticise Pacific bound crew visas but the overall lack of assistance for Kiwi seafarers is quite striking compared to other industries.
"It is quite frustrating when you see people like the Wiggles and Lion King on ice or whatever it is," Pearman said.
"They get accommodated which is fine, but also we are doing an important job and making a sacrifice. We're not travelling for pleasure and I'm sure an accommodation could be made. It's not that hard.
His absence from his wife Brenda during the crash on State Highway 2 in Wahi in January was particularly hard to take.
"My wife was driving home from Auckland and she was only a kilometre from the turnoff where we live and she fainted - she had an infection she didn't know about," he says.
"She fainted and crossed the road and hit the bank and rolled onto the roof and I rang her actually to see if she was home and she spoke to me on the speakerphone and the car was upside down.
"Luckily enough a midwife had seen her crash and she grabbed the phone out of the car and told me what had happened and said that it was pretty bad. I obviously got quite worried and I was reading about it on the Herald website.
"She sustained quite bad injuries and had a week in hospital and wrote off a brand new car. It's moments like those that you feel impotent when you can't get home."
Pearman says he will not get back to New Zealand until the Trans Tasman bubble opens.
"The way the system is operating at the moment, it's just impossible. I've registered on the site. My company honestly don't know until a couple of days out what day we're getting off the ship," he said.
"So it's very hard to pre plan for seafarers to get bookings into NZ unless I was to say 'right I'm resigning' and just sit in Brisbane until I get a booking on my own."
A spokesperson for MIQ said they were aware "of some concerns from seafarers" and they are "continuing to refine the system for allocating space within New Zealand's managed isolation facilities".
"New Zealand seafarers who are working on foreign vessels outside of New Zealand waters are treated like other New Zealanders who are seeking to travel to New Zealand," the MIQ spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also added the new visa for foreign Pacific bound crew "does not impact the ability of New Zealand crew to get MIQ places".