More cruise ships are expected to visit ports in India in the next few days to disembark some of their crew after Marella Discovery evacuated a total of 145 Indian crew at Port Mumbai with the help of an SOP (standard operating procedure) framed by the government for such a task following the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Around 23,000 Indian citizens employed on cruise liners became stranded at sea globally after the illness outbreak forced shipowners to suspend passenger shipping operations. The crew repatriation to India followed the suspension of international flights to India.
Major cruise companies had offered to evacuate their Indian staff-crew via chartered flights (like to The Philippines and Indonesia), but a government wary of easing the international travel restrictions to combat the Coronavirus pandemic refused to budge. This way, the companies are forced to use ships sailing thousands of miles to repatriate their Indian crew back home.
Like the Marella Discovery cruise ship (owned by the UK-based TUI Group), which has max passenger capacity 2074. The vessel (carrying only 145 crew and no passengers) left Thailand’s Port Laem Chabang (Bangkok City) in mid-March and arrived in Port Mumbai on April 16th, following a technical stop in Port Cochin (India) 2 days earlier for bunkering.
Since a government approval for the crew change at Indian ports and the standard operating procedure was not in place, the seafarers waited on the liner, which also had to sail back to Europe (via Suez Canal).
The SOP was issued late evening on April 21. The next day, the Mumbai-based agency (hired by the shipowner to facilitate the crew debarkation) J M Baxi & Co made all the arrangements with the support of Traffic Manager Gautam Dey, Mumbai Port Trust Chairman Sanjay Bhatia, and other local authorities.
When the cruise ship berthed at Mumbai's offshore container terminal on April 23, technicians from a government-approved private lab were waiting at the pier to carry out COVID-19 tests. Two persons boarded the vessel - the assisting pilot and the PHO (Port Health Officer) who went for a shipwide inspection.
In just 8 hours, all of the 145 seafarers were disembarked and Marella Discovery departed. All the 145 crew were tested negative for Coronavirus when their test results returned in 24 hours. Following the results, the cruise crew was bused to 6 designated hotels and quarantined. 30 crew residing in various parts of Port Mumbai were shifted to their homes early Sunday morning to undergo a 2-week self-isolation (at home) as stipulated by Maharashtra government.
The cruise liner owned by NCLH-Norwegian - Seven Seas Voyager (operated by RSSC-Regent) carries 130 Indian crew and is currently at Port Abu Dhabi (UAE) waiting for clearance to sail to India for crew repatriation.
A Fred. Olsen ship with 80 Indian crew is also expected in the country to sign off the crew.
For Coronavirus updates on cruise ship quarantines (infected passengers and crew) and top-pandemic countries (COVID-19 cases and deaths, daily updated statistics) see at CruiseMapper's Norovirus page.