Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
On 2 April cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam disembarked more than 1,200 passengers in Port Everglades, Florida. These developments, combined with one remaining disembarkation being coordinated, represents the processing of more than 120 vessels in the last three weeks to remove 250,000 passengers from cruise ships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was reported by USCG HQ Media service from Washington.
US Coast Guard, under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and working with Department of Homeland Security partners Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as well as state and local entities from multiple port jurisdictions, facilitated the safe landing, screening, quarantine and repatriation of these passengers in a manner that has prevented further spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many passengers were brought to safe harbour in the United States when international ports refused entry.
Most of the cruise line industry announced a voluntarily suspension of cruise ship operations from US ports of call on 13 March and the CDC issued a “No Sail” Order on 14 March to all cruise ships that had not voluntarily suspended operations.
In the words of Vice-Admiral Dan Abel, Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations: ‘We commend the decision by the cruise industry to cease operations. However, pausing a global tourist industry does not happen instantaneously or easily.
‘The Federal, state, local and industry cooperation to achieve this feat truly represents the whole-of-nation approach directed by the President and is essential to fighting the spread of this virus and working to minimize the loss of life.’
Drawdown of passenger operations is a major milestone, but it does not eliminate US Government concerns for cruise ships and their crews, it was reported.
At the time of the USCG statement (3 April) there were 114 cruise ships, carrying 93,000 crew members, either in or near US ports and waters. This includes 73 cruise ships, with 52,000 crew members, moored or anchored in US ports and anchorages. Another 41 cruise ships, with 41,000 crew members, are underway and still in the vicinity of the United States. The cruise industry has an ongoing obligation for the care, safety and welfare of their seafarers.
The Coast Guard is a lifesaving service, and since 7 March, when COVID-19 cases on cruise ships operating around the US escalated, the service has enabled 31 life-saving medevacs.
Our USCG picture by CPO Charly Hengen (USCG ©) shows A Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale boat crew escorting the cruise ship Zaandam to Port Everglades on 2 April. The Coast Guard has been assisting in escorting cruise ships and cruise ship tenders in and out of the Ports of Miami and Everglades.
Our picture shows a Carnival line up. Five Carnival ships are due in Durban in week commencing 24 May. (Photo: www.africaports.co.za )
No less than five Carnival Cruise ships are due to arrive in Durban between 26 and 28 May to take on bunkers and to restock depleted supplies.
These five ships are part of a group of 12 engaged in the humanitarian task of repatriating over 26,000 crew from the Carnival fleet and other companies, as well as personnel from entertainment centres ashore, who because of the coronavirus pandemic, have had their employment suddenly curtailed.
Hotel staff and entertainers
These are the entertainment staff, the onboard shop workers, beauty salon practitioners, waiters and bus boys, chefs and kitchen staff, cabin cleaners, pursers and front desk people all making up the staff working on board cruise ships.
With cruising curtailed these former employees are finally returning home to destinations like India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines after having remained on board their ships for more than two months, unable to go ashore or receive visitors ever since cruising operations were suspended in mid -March. Ahead they face another three or four weeks at sea before being allowed to disembark. However, there’s something of a problem.
Call to governments
IFSMA* calls upon Governments to adopt the ‘Framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic’ without delay to allow ship owners and management companies to change over their dangerously tired crews.
Governments must act now in order to avoid personal injury to, and mental breakdown of, seafarers and avoid the significant risk of accidents and consequential danger to life and the environment.
Concern at IFSMA
IFSMA is receiving an increasing number of reports from its ship masters’ associations around the world concerned for the welfare and safety of crews and the increased risk with which they are operating in an already high risk environment. Seafarers are feeling let down and abandoned by their Governments.
Following concerns from the maritime industry, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued a circular to all Member States, the UN and agencies and IGOs and NGOs in consultative status with IMO. This document concerned recommendations to Member States about measures to facilitate ship crew changes in seaports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMO Secretary General has received a framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the pandemic, proposed by a cross-section of global industry associations in consultative status with the IMO, for example: ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, and P&I Clubs as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA).