The Queen Mary 2 passenger vessel departed from the Port of Durban at 07h00 on Thursday, 2 April. Six South African crew members disembarked from the liner which docked in the Port of Durban around 14h30 on Tuesday, 31 March.
The ship had been positioned outside the port since Friday, 27 March after requesting clearance to berth to receive bunkers and stores. Approval was granted on Tuesday by the Department of Transport and the Port Health unit of the Department of Health, for the vessel to dock, refuel and allow the six crew members to come ashore. The ship arrived in Durban with 1215 crew and 264 passengers. She will now sail to Southampton in the United Kingdom with the remaining 1209 crew and 264 passengers.
The six South African crew were among 27 individuals on-board including passengers and crew members who were tested for COVID-19 due to flu-like symptoms and/or contact with symptomatic individuals on-board. The results of all 27 were negative. However, Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said the six will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precautionary measure.
The ship’s line, Cunard, announced earlier this month that it had ended its three international voyages early in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most passengers were flown home by Cunard earlier during the voyage prior to arrival in Durban.
TNPA has been working closely with the Department of Transport, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and the Department of Health to manage requests from cruise liners after new Regulations were promulgated by the Minister of Transport on 18 March 2020. These Regulations essentially prohibit cruise liner calls, any crew changes, any disembarkations apart from returning South African citizens or permanent residents, and any embarkations unless they are for departing foreign nationals. However, all parties have worked together to manage individual scenarios.
The Port of Durban has a final call from the Holland America cruise ship AMSTERDAM scheduled for Sunday, 5 April 2020. Officials are in communication with the vessel agent and master to determine how this ship will be managed and any measures that need to be put in place.
COVID-19 tests related to cruise liners in South Africa to date have included:
· AIDAmira – docked in Cape Town on 16 March following a COVID-19 scare involving six AIDAmira passengers and two MV Corona bulk carrier crew, all of whom tested negative.
· Arcadia – docked in Durban on 26 March after results were negative for 13 symptomatic individuals onboard. The vessel docked to refuel and restock provisions, as well as allow six South African crew members to disembark and return home.
· MSC Orchestra – currently working with the Department of Health to trace passengers following confirmation of positive test results for two individuals who cruised on 28 February and 13 March respectively.
It is standard procedure for the Department of Health’s Port Health unit to be required to grant free pratique (i.e. checking and confirming a clean bill of health for all onboard) before any vessel is allowed to dock. Flu-like symptoms reported by vessel masters are being investigated and tested accordingly to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.