Fourth cruise ship cancellation hits Samoa

Samoa has just been hit with its fourth cruise ship cancellation as measures to prevent the coronavirus strike the country's already-battered tourism sector.

The Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A.) Chief Executive Officer, So'oalo Kuresa So'oalo, confirmed that the cruise liner Sevens Seas Mariner, which was scheduled to arrive next Monday, had been cancelled.

Friday’s cancellation makes for the fourth cruise ship in the past two months. 

The cancellations follow reports of the spread of the virus across international cruise ships.  

The Seven Seas Mariner is operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises is expected to carry 752 passengers and 445 crew members.

According to the Seven Seas Mariner itineraries, the vessel was last docked at Bora Bora French Polynesia and is currently on its way on Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Government spokesman  Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga said that, contrary to recent reports on radio, the ports of Apia remain open to cruise ships.

Nanai said cruise ships are being cancelled because they do not fulfill quarantine requirements from the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.):

"It is not closed, contrary to those reports, the port is still open for cruise ships and all incoming vessels but they have to meet requirements imposed by our Government."

The current requirement for cruise ships is for their local agent to pay for a local health inspector to travel to the last port of call to conduct a screening before the vessel arrives in Samoa.

Should they continue to come to Samoa health officials will conduct on-water screenings, he said: 

"Unless they are cleared, they will not be able to [dock]," he said.

"That is where we stand and when it comes to the Port, at the moment we are staying vigilant in monitoring the port of entry, but the S.P.A. and Health.

"If there is one person with the symptoms of coronavirus, the vessel will not be allowed to dock."

The last cruise ship cancellation was the Emerald Princess, which had been scheduled to arrive today. 

In an email from Betham Brothers Enterprises, the company said the cancellation followed the most recent advice from M.O.H. concerning the clearance and screening process for large passenger vessels.

The next cruise ship expected to dock in Apia is the Oceania Regatta, which is operated by Oceania Cruises and scheduled to arrive on February 28, 2020.

University of N.S.W. infectious disease expert Professor Raina MacIntyre told Fairfax Media on Friday that cruise ships were a weak link in global efforts because health guidelines "are not enforceable and many countries do not have the resources to comply". 

"A cruise ship on international waters may slip between the cracks of disease surveillance,” Professor MacIntyre said.

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