by Adam Hartman

NAMPORT has announced it will provide berthing (parking) space for empty cruise ships, which are in limbo due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

BIRD’S EYE … An aerial view of Namport’s container terminal at Walvis Bay. Photo: File

Namport’s acting chief executive officer Kavin Harry in a media statement issued on Wednesday said the provision of parking space to the stranded ships was necessary.

“Whereas this is unfortunate, the turn of events, however, presents an opportunity to Namport to provide berthing space for the empty cruise ships off our ports at designated points of anchorage,” he said.

Since its outbreak last November, the coronavirus has spread to many cruise ships. According to international media reports, the British-registered Diamond Princess was the first vessel to have a major outbreak on board and it was quarantined off the coast of Japan for a month.

More than 700 passengers were infected, and 14 of them died. In response, governments and ports, including Namport, barred many cruise ships from docking. Similarly, many cruise lines suspended operations to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

Reports from several international media organisations suggested that more than 40 cruise ships have reported having positive coronavirus cases on board. In addition, more than 100 000 crew members remain on cruise ships, some in isolation. Many are unable to be repatriated because cruise lines refuse to cover the cost of doing so.

Besides the infections, the cruise industry has also ground to a halt due to international travel restrictions, resulting in many cruise liners being idling at sea, empty, and seeking for parking space.

According to Harry, having conducted detailed reviews of procedures to be put in place in hosting these vessels, Namport’s move will neither contradict nor contravene any existing measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. The cruise liners will join offshore supply vessels and oil rigs which, as a result of the fall in oil prices, have also been recalled from oil fields and are safely anchored at the port of Walvis Bay.

Harry appealed to the public not to “panic” when they see these vessels at Walvis Bay or Lüderitz ports.

South African ports are also continuing to receive urgent requests from international cruise vessels to dock for fuel, supplies or the repatriation of local crew, TimesLIVE reported yesterday.

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