Cruise cancellation costs hit $200,000
The Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A.) has lost approximately $200,000 in revenue due to a recent string of cruise ship cancellations.
The Seven Seas Mariner, which had been expected to dock in Apia on Monday, was the fourth ship to cancel its planned visit to Samoa in two months.
The cancellations follow reports of the spread of the coronavirus across international cruise ships and the Ministry of Health beefing up preventative quarantine measures against it reaching the nation’s shores.
The S.P.A.'s General Manager, So’oalo Kuresa So’oalo, said the four cancellations have affected the Authority’s collection of port charges, which were to be levied on the ships upon entry.
“Our budgeted revenue for the current financial year included these cruise revenues but it’s lost revenue now,” he said.
“[We have] lost approximately $200,000 tala.”
Port charges vary according to the weight (also known as the gross tonnage) of ships.
Sooalo remains optimistic for the future despite the recent downturn.
He hopes that other S.P.A. services will help to absorb the impact of the losses.
“[We] will just have to move on with business and providing port services, hoping the global business shocks like the coronavirus will die out,” he said.
“And hopefully other areas of our business will improve to account for the lost revenue.”
Another cruise ship, Oceania Regatta is expected to arrive in Samoa on February 28, carrying some 824 people with a crew of 386.
A Government spokesman, Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga, told the Samoa Observer that cruise ships are being cancelled because they do not fulfill quarantine requirements from the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.)
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."
Compulsory screening is conducted at all points of entry for all arriving passengers to Samoa.
So far, more than 68,500 people in total have been infected in China with more than 1,300 people are now known to have died from the virus.
It was reported this week that a total of 44 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan have been diagnosed with the virus. Public health experts have expressed concern about the ships’ potential to spread the virus among groups of international passengers living in close quarters.