Westerdam given permission to dock

Cruise ship Westerdam. Credit: EPA

Holland America Line’s Westerdam cruise ship was granted permission to dock after being turned away from at least four other ports due to fears over coronavirus cases on board, a company spokesperson said in a statement to SAS.

The vessel will dock at Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on 13 February 2020, after being refused access from the Laem Chabang port authorities in Thailand. It was initially given permission to call at the Thai port on 10 February, allowing guests to fly home from Bangkok.

However, access was withdrawn to Westerdam amid reports that 38 people on board were exhibiting flu symptoms.

Holland America Line, part of British-US cruise giant Carnival Corporation, told SAS, “We have no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board the ship, despite media reports.”

Westerdam, carrying more than 1,450 passengers, was already turned away from ports in Guam, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan as it had picked up 800 passengers from Hong Kong on 1 February.

Anxious governments have banned passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong in a desperate move to contain the outbreak.

With more positive coronavirus results emerging from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, which is operated by another Carnival unit, Princess Cruises, governments are concerned that the virus could easily spread among the passengers and crew on such vessels.

Tonga’s Ministry of Health has turned away four cruise ships this week: Crystal Serenity, Astor, Columbus, and Wind Spirit.

Crystal Serenity is operated by Crystal Cruises, a unit of Genting Cruise Lines; Astor and Columbus are operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages; and Wind Spirit is operated by Windstar Cruises.

Named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus surfaced in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and has spread across Asia, parts of Europe, Australia, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and the North American region.

More than 1,100 deaths have occurred, and some 44,000 people have been infected, causing the WHO to declare the situation a global health emergency.