AIDAmira has been cleared to depart Cape Town after Coronavirus tests on six passengers came back negative, while the National Port Authority has also confirmed that no cruise ships will be allowed to dock in any South African ports.
Captain Dennis Mqadi, Executive Manager for Safety Health Environmental & Regulatory Oversight at Transnet National Ports Authority, said: “These precautions and testing were set in motion after a crew member from the MV Corona bulk vessel fell ill with typical COVID-19 symptoms following the vessel’s departure from the port on 11 March.”
He added, “Upon further investigation it was confirmed that the ill crew member had flown into Cape Town from Istanbul, Turkey earlier this month with another MV Corona crew member, and that six passengers from the AIDAmira cruise liner had also been on this flight before boarding their vessel in Cape Town. The individuals had to be checked due to their possible contact.”
While only the first crew member was ill, protocols dictated that he and the remaining seven be quarantined onboard their respective vessels.
MV Corona returned to the Port of Cape Town for evacuation on 16 March and was held off port limits. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) together with the Port Health unit of the National Department of Health and the Harbour Master of the Port of Cape Town coordinated efforts to evacuate the crew members.
The AIDAmira cruise vessel was permitted to dock on 16 March 2020. The six passengers in question were evacuated and taken to the hospital for testing and quarantining by Port Health Officials.
Captain Sabelo Mdlalose, Acting Chief Harbour Master at Transnet National Ports Authority, said: “All parties are relieved that these results have returned negative and that plans can be set in motion for the vessels to continue their journeys.
“This means there have to date been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of our ports but we will remain on high alert after this first scare and will keep working with the Port Health unit of the Department of Health to manage vessels who report potential cases.”
Port Health has now granted clearance for both vessels to continue their journeys from the Port of Cape Town.
It is expected that the AIDAmira passengers will be allowed to disembark in the Port of Cape Town and fly onward to their respective countries.
South Africa’s Transnet National Ports Authority meanwhile has also confirmed that all cruise operations in the country are being suspended “until further notice”.
The announcement comes after MSC Cruises confirmed that they were cancelling their cruise season out of Durban early.
The new containment measures aimed at limiting the spread of Coronavirus in the country prohibit travel, large gatherings and a number of other activities.
“They further prohibit passenger embarkation and disembarkation at all sea ports except under certain circumstances,” TNPA told Cruise Arabia & Africa in an emailed statement.
“All sea cruises undertaken by cruise liner vessels into and out of any seaport within South Africa must be terminated until further notice,” the statement added.
South Africa’s six cruise ports, Durban, Richards Bay, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, and East London, will now only be permitted to allow disembarkation of a returning South African citizen and/or a permanent resident, or embarkation of a departing foreign national.
In addition, the national Department of Health earlier this week advised TNPA that TNPA is working with affected cruise line companies and shipping agents to execute on this instruction as seamlessly as possible, noting that the 2019/20 cruise season was scheduled to end on 22 April 2020.
Emergency medical evacuation shall be managed utilising the existing Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre protocols.