The cruise shipping industry is proving to be a slow-burning nightmare for the Jamaican Government. To be honest, I had no idea that there were so many thousands of Jamaicans (and other nationalities) working on these floating disease incubators, all over the world… The UK Guardian focuses on their plight in this article. I don’t think I had quite grasped the scale of it.
As far back as March 2 this year, the Ministry of Health and Wellness issued Interim Guidelines for Cruise Ships visiting the island. Do these still apply?
This sleepy Sunday morning, a local journalist broke the news on Twitter that a cruise ship carrying 1,000 (?) Jamaican workers was on its way to deposit said employees on our shores – even though, according to the audio message purportedly from the ship’s captain, the Royal Caribbean ship had not yet obtained permission from the Jamaican Government. “We are on our way there, regardless,” said the captain, noting that the workers had been “in isolation for a month.” The ship apparently plans to arrive by May 23 at the latest, according to him.
Here is a response from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, tweeted by Minister Tufton. As of today, no formal permission has been granted for the docking of the cruise vessel and disembarking of anyone from cruise ships anywhere in Jamaica.
The Minister must be steeling himself for another challenging week ahead…
STATEMENT FROM DR. THE HONOURABLE CHRISTOPHER TUFTON, MP MINISTER OF HEALTH AND WELLNESS – JAMAICA
RE: CRUISE SHIP WORKERS BEING REPATRIATED TO JAMAICA
KINGSTON, Jamaica. Sunday, May 17, 2020: The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to note that as at today’s date no formal approval has been provided for any vessel to be granted permission for the disembarking of any person from cruise ships in any of the ports in Jamaica. It is important that the public notes that the request for disembarking or “pratique” is governed by procedures outlined in the Quarantine Act and the Public Health Act. These procedures are known and utilized by the Cruise Ship Industry and form part of the overall Maritime arrangements of the Government of Jamaica.
In my statements today in the media, it was outlined that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has no knowledge of a ship coming into harbour and neither do we have any information or any knowledge of any arrangement for a specific date for this action to be taken. The Ministry has been actively participating in negotiations that have been underway for the repatriation of Jamaican Crew Members and the consultations are being held to determine the safest method for this to be done. Given the state and nature of the discussions, there was no reason to believe that a ship could be on its way to Jamaica without the knowledge and consent of the Government of Jamaica.
It is to be noted that as a Government we must ensure the safety of all parties in this matter and as such we must put in place the requisite resources to enable the staff within the public health system to be able respond to all eventualities. This must be done with due consideration for the required testing; the quarantine of individuals within spaces that are suitable and which reduces the risks of cross contamination; and the clinical care of all persons who reside on the ship once they arrive in Jamaican waters.
The Government stands ready to ensure that our citizens are returned to the island and is making every effort to identify and mobilize the resources required to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with the repatriation exercise. The Government is ensuring that all support can be provided once agreement has been reached on the terms and date of arrival in accordance with the appropriate international laws and the laws of Jamaica.