PortandTerminal.com, March 26, 2020
MIAMI, FL – We need to talk about what to do right now with the thousands of people who are still stuck at sea on cruise ships, desperately looking for a port to disembark at.
There are still a lot of them. CNN reported recently that there are still 30 cruise ships still at sea looking for any port that will have them.
But to keep this discussion simple, let’s frame it by focussing on just one ship. Holland America’s Zaandam ship, which is owned by Carnival Corporation.
Holland America’s Zaandam ship left Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 7 with 1,243 passengers and 586 crew. It now has 77 sick people on board and is hoping to dock in Fort Lauderdale on March 30.
The fact that the ship is now filled with sick people was entirely predictable.
The fact that the people on board now want to disembark at Fort Lauderdale should terrify anyone living in Florida.
If someone smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and gets lung cancer that’s sad, but predictable. As sad as their illness is though it does not give them a pass to get to the front of the line to get emergency cancer treatment. And that is what these cruise ships at sea are asking for. A pass to the front of the line during this crisis.
Holland America and every one of the Zaandam’s 1,243 passengers knew the risk that they were taking when they boarded the cruise ship on March 7th. Cruise ship after cruise ship by then had already been caught up in well-publized coronavirus quarantines. By March 7th, New York State had already declared a state of emergency.
Despite the well-publicized risks, Holland America’s Zaandam’s set sail on March 7th with 1,243 passengers who happily jumped on board. “My tickets were prepaid”, “Holland America said everything would be fine” “They said no refunds!” are the excuses that are given.
So now here we are today. Surprising no one, scores of passengers on board the Zaandam have become ill, and all passengers on board are now desperate to disembark. But no port wants them though.
Why should any port have to deal with this mess? Why should they? Do you want your overworked, exhausted first responders, nurses and doctors have to deal with scores of infected cruise ship passengers who knew better but didn’t care?
What is the right thing to do?
There are only 3 options that we can see.
One, kick the can down the road for some other port to deal with. So, far that seems to be what has been happening with the 30 or so cruise ships still stuck at sea.
Two, accept them and bear the consequences. But do understand the enormous investment in resources that it would take to offload a cruise ship with a large number of sick people and an undetermined number of untested, possibly infected people on board.
And three, keep them at sea and let them ride it out until this is all over. Supply them with food, fuel, provide medication for people on board, but keep them at sea. And yes, there are several good reasons why this is a bad idea as well – quarantines on cruise ships have already proven to be infective etc.
But that’s where we are now. New York City has run out of places to send its dead. ICU doctors are having to decide who lives and who dies as they allocate resources. And now Fort Lauderdale is being asked to make a similar decision.
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