By Kevon Browne
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Two ships from the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) will dock for safe harboring at Port Zante on St Kitts Wednesday (August 19) for a one month period.
During Monday’s (August 17) press conference held at the Conference Room of the St. Kitts and Nevis Customs Department, Minister of Tourism, Lindsay Grant identified the vessels as the “Vision of the Seas” and the “Rhapsody of the Seas”, two cruise lines from RCCL.
The ships previously anchored at St Martin for refueling and then docked in Barbados but no crew member was allowed to disembark.
“The Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which is one of our largest cruise-line partners, has reached out to the government of St. Kitts and Nevis for safe harboring for two of their vessels, the Vision of the Seas and the Rhapsody of the Seas at Port Zante, ” Grant disclosed.
“The safe harboring really allows the vessels to dockside by side at Port Zante and both cruise ships must adhere to all the necessary health protocols and all the laws and the regulations of St. Kitts and Nevis including and not limited to the SROs issued under the State of Emergency.”
“We recognize that allowing the two Royal Caribbean vessels to safe harbor will obviously create some questions and some concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic as our borders are closed to commercial air travel and sea traffic at this time, and obviously justifiably so. However, the reason for the press conference is to outline the process of the approval for the safe harboring and to assure the general public that all health and safety measures were taken to ensure that our citizens and our residents are not exposed to Covid-19.”
Grant said the exercise was Cabinet approved and the ships are expected to adhere to all safety protocols and regulations currently in place within the Federation.
“Cabinet has given its approval for this activity and under the advice of the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws and the COVID-19 Task Force. Both cruise ships are scheduled to arrive at Port Zante on Wednesday the 19th of August, 2020 with 70 crew members on each vessel. The ships will be allowed to dock and safe harbor at Port Zante for an extended period,” explained Grant.
The 140 crew members will be tested on arrival and after the 14 day mandatory quarantine period on the ship. If the tests yield a 100% negative result the crew members will be allowed to disembark and integrate into society for the remainder of their stay. Grant assured that there will be no physical interaction between RCCL’s crew and staff of the St. Christopher Air and Seaport Authority or RCCL’s local agent, Delisle Walwyn & Company Ltd.
“SCASPA’s pilots will not be required to provide any physical assistance to facilitate birthing for either vessel. There will be no physical interaction between the RCCL’s crew and SCASPA’s team. In addition, Coast Guard assistance will not be required unless in the case of an emergency. Royal Caribbean’s agents, Delisle Walwyn & Co will be provisioning for the cruise vessels. Containers of supplies will be imported and delivered to both the Rhapsody of the Seas and the Vision of the Seas. The items will be dropped off on the pier without any physical interaction between Delisle Walwyn’s staff and the crew.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws spoke about the protocols as they pertain to the testing and safety in testing, and disembarking of the crew members once the quarantine period passed without a positive result.
“When the ships come into port we are going to be setting up tents on the port on land and then the crew members will be escorted individually to the separate tents, their samples will be ascertained and the samples will be sent to the Next Generation Labs for processing… They will be directed back on board for compulsory quarantine and they will only be released… and allowed integration into society if and when their RT-PCR tests come back as negative.”
Medical Chief of Staff Dr. Cameron Wilkinson addressed issues raised about likely risk involved with allowing the ships to dock here. He suggested that there is a low risk to the Federation as the ships provide the ideal location for the isolation of crew members in case of positive testing.
“In terms of allowing persons to come back into our country, I feel that this is one of the safest efforts we are embarking upon because these are persons who have been virtually isolated on a ship for the last five months… They have not disembarked in any other country and if it were that there was a positive case of COVID-19 on that ship, there should have been some symptomatic manifestation unless by some divine intervention they have all been asymptomatic for 15 months, but even then, they should have recovered.
“Secondly, in terms of being able to quarantine them, this again is the best quarantine facility where all 70 plus persons would be in one location on the ship… It’s very easy to manage these persons and to make sure that the 14-day quarantine is enforced with security personnel at the port so I believe that the risk associated with bringing the ships here is very very low.”
Grant also explained the benefits of having these two ships docked at our port after they have gone through the quarantine period successfully.
“St. Kitts and Nevis’s businesses will benefit from the crew being here in the federation when approved to integrate into our society. They will use our supermarkets, our restaurants, our bars, taxis, port fees for SCASPA, barbershops, hair salons, the market, and many other businesses. The government will gain revenue for the supply of water and the disposal of dry and wet waste by the Solid Waste Management Corporations. Crew members will seek to learn more about our island by taking tours and excursions; they are indeed welcome to explore our island particularly at this time when my team and the COVID-19 task force continue to prepare the sector for the opening of the destination.”