COVID-19 – cruise lines take action

2020-03-13T18:06:35+00:00 March 13th, 2020|Safety|

Last Tuesday, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) submitted an anti-virus plan to US Vice President Mike Pence.

Although details were still scarce at the time of writing, the plan included denying boarding to anyone of 70 years or over unless they are able to present a doctor’s note verifying their fitness for travel on a cruise ship.

In addition, any person with a chronic medical condition who could be at an increased risk if they were to contract COVID-19 would also be denied boarding.

Pence (pictured) said the US State Department would review the proposal and at at a press conference on the same day, confirmed that the plan included advanced screening, improved medical services on board the ships, airlift evacuation and land-based care protocols, all coming at the expense of the cruise lines.

He claimed that President Trump had an objective to make cruise lines safer.

In addition, Pence said vulnerable people should not take a cruise.

Later in the press conference, he was asked if a bail-out was on the table for the cruise industry, but he did not answer, local media reported.

In a separate report, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, said that he was reviewing the state’s legal options aimed at restricting cruise ships coming to the state. There were also calls for all US states to ban cruise ships.

Meanwhile, Costa Crociere said that it was cutting its Italian port calls in line with the Italian government’s recent coronavirus quarantine measures.

Costa brand cruises that are currently underway will only call at Italian ports to allow guests to disembark with no excursions or new embarkations allowed. The company said that it had informed all guests affected by these changes and has offered them a future cruise credit.

Costa also said that it had cancelled all Italian guests booked on cruises due to depart outside of the Mediterranean in an effort to contain the risk. Recently, two Costa cruise ships were refused entry by overseas Port State Control officials, due to having Italian passengers on board.

“As an Italian company and the only cruise operator flying the Italian flag, we are committed to guarantee compliance with the regulations and support to the Italian authorities and the community in this extraordinary effort to face the current situation of emergency,” said Neil Palomba, Costa Crociere President.

‘Costa Fortuna’, which was turned away from Thailand and Malaysia after port officials learned that 64 Italian nationals were on board, finally disembarked her passengers in Singapore.

Singaporean officials explained that the vessel was allowed to berth because she was returning to her home port. “The passengers were already in Singapore, they had arrived in Singapore and embarked on the cruise in Singapore with the intention to come back to Singapore. I don’t think it would be right for us to reject the ship if they were to come back to Singapore,” said National Development Minister, Lawrence Wong. “That’s why we agreed to accept them and we took extra precautions, as we have done for all cruise ships.”

“The broader question is, what should we do with cruise ships going forward? And there I think we’ll have to look at it from a broader context of looking at the overall risk situation, and also the appropriate measures that we want to put in place,” he added.

Singapore’s cruise terminals are open to scheduled cruise calls but unscheduled calls have been banned since 24th February.

Neighbour Malaysia has imposed a blanket ban on cruise ships entering its ports, effective 8th March, 2020.

Circulars have been issued to shipowners, agents, port authorities, and terminal operators, informing them that all cruise ships are indefinitely barred from docking at Malaysian ports.

Spain has shut its ports to cruise ships for two weeks.

One of the latest cruise ship operators to be hit was Fred.Olsen.

‘Braemar’ was denied entry to the Bahamas after five people on board tested positive for the virus.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines confirmed that the vessel has been required to change her itinerary.

The ship, which was due to end its ‘Western Caribbean & Central America’ cruise on 12th March in Barbados, had changed course following a cautious response from the local authorities, and was heading towards the Bahamas (her flag state).

“We are currently working with the Bahamas, the UK government, UK Chamber of Shipping and Public Heath England to ensure that all guests can return home as soon as possible.

“The next cruise, ‘Islands of the Caribbean & the Azores’ (M2006), has been cancelled and guests are being offered a full refund, including any additional expenses incurred.

“We continue to follow advice from Public Health England and there is currently no requirement for guests to stay in their cabins. However, we have put other measures in place.

“These include operating open seating at mealtimes, so that guests can sit on emptier tables. We are also asking guests to keep a reasonable distance from each other and crew members, as much as possible.

“We are keeping those on board regularly updated and are asking all guests and crew to return to their cabin and call the Medical Centre, if they begin to feel unwell,” Fred.Olsen said in an update on 12th March.

The cruise line confirmed that on 11th March, while docked in Willemstad, Curaçao, five people on board tested positive for COVID-19 – four crew and one guest – with another guest returning an inconclusive result. One guest received a negative result.

On Thursday, the Bahamian Government said that she would not be allowed to berth in the Bahamas.

“The ‘Braemar’ cruise ship . . . will not be permitted to dock in The Bahamas and passengers and crew will not be allowed to disembark.

This decision is based on consideration for the protection of the health and safety of the Bahamian people and residents of The Bahamas,” the Bahamian Ministry of Transport said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

“Should [she] arrive in Bahamian waters, The Bahamas will do all that it can to provide humanitarian assistance. This may include providing fuel, food, water and other supplies as needed by the vessel.”

The Ministry also advised that the Bahamas Maritime Authority – the administrator of the Bahamian flag registry – is monitoring the health situation on board the vessel at regular intervals.

In a statement also issued on Thursday night, the Dominican Republic port authority said that Dominican public health officials had denied ‘Braemar’ permission to enter her home port of La Romana, where she was scheduled to arrive on 27th February.

At the time, four Philippine nationals, two British citizens and two US citizens were under medical observation for flu symptoms, the port authority said.

It was reported that on 1st March, the vessel conducted a turnaround in St. Maarten instead of La Romana, disembarking passengers and embarking fresh passengers for her next voyage.

‘Braemar’ then called at Cartagena, Colombia on 8th March, during which a US national who disembarked from the ship in Cartagena had been confirmed as the city’s first recorded case of coronavirus.