Epidemic causes more trouble for cruise ships and threatens MEPC 75

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As the coronavirus continues to spread around the globe the impact on shipping continues to grow in parallel.

More than 3,500 people on board the Carnival Corporation’s Grand Princess will be quarantined later today in Oakland, California after an outbreak of coronavirus was confirmed on the ship. The ship’s voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii was interrupted on its return leg Wednesday when officials learned that passenger who travelled on the vessel in February contracted coronavirus and died last week.

Testing kits and supplies were airlifted to the vessel over the weekend and 21 people have tested positive. Of the 21 people who tested positive, 19 were crew members of the ship and two were passengers.

Other cruises involving the line have also been affected. The docking of Regal Princess in Florida was delayed until late Sunday because two crew from the Grand Princess had transferred to the vessel recently. The USCG said it delivered testing kits to the Regal Princess
on Sunday morning and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a “no-sail order” for the ship’s next scheduled cruise.

On Sunday, the US State Department issued an advisory against travel on cruise ships, particularly for travellers with underlying health conditions. The statement said the CDC noted an “increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.” The department also said US citizens cannot continue to rely on the US government to intervene on ships that are quarantined at sea, or shunned by other countries. “While the US government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for US citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”

Following the statement, Carnival cancelled the voyage of the Royal Princess due to leave from Los Angeles.

In another incident, the MSC Opera was diverted away from Malta on Friday where it had been scheduled to call after threats of demonstrations had been made. According to the BBC. The Maltese government said the decision followed “public alarm raised by misleading information” and blamed an unnamed local media outlet.

Both the government and the cruise operator said there were no cases on board. “Despite the established facts, the Maltese government and MSC Cruises have decided to approve the re-routing of cruise liner MSC Opera so as to avoid further concern among the Maltese public,” the government said.

MSC Cruises has a procedure in place for screening all passengers embarking on cruises and any passenger with a temperature or displaying other signs may be refused embarkation.

The epidemic is also hitting shore events connected with shipping and has caused the cancellation or postponement of several events. The IMO announced on Friday 6 March that it was postponing the meeting of the Scientific Group of the London Convention and London Protocol scheduled to take place from 9 to 13 March 2020; and the 107th session of the Legal Committee, scheduled to take place from 16 to 20 March 2020.

IMO said will continue to monitor all developments related to COVID-19 and will advise as soon as possible on the future postponement of meetings beyond the ones listed above. This could threaten the 23-27 March Intersessional meeting of the Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG) and potentially MEPC 75 due to be held on 30 March – 3 April.