Authorities of New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT) said that they were acting as per the directive of the Ministry of Shipping on the prevention of coronavirus.

Coronavirus 1400 people stuck as cruise ship denied permission to dock at MangaluruWikimedia Cpmmons
news Coronavirus Sunday, March 08, 2020 - 08:35

An estimated 1,400 international cruise-passengers have been stranded after their cruise ship, MSC Lirica, was denied permission to dock at Mangaluru port by the authorities of New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT). Officials said that they were acting as per the directive of the Ministry of Shipping on the prevention of coronavirus.

According to an NMPT official, the ship, registered from Republic of Panama (ROP), was scheduled to reach NMPT at around 6 am on Saturday morning along with its passengers and crew.

“We have all the equipment for screening, detection and quarantine system in place. However, following the decision taken by the Ministry of Shipping on March 5 to stop the disembarkation of the crew or passenger having travel history from the infected countries, we have not allowed the Cruise ship to dock at the port,” he said.

According to the ship’s schedule, MSC Lirica departed from Dubai on Saturday, 29 Feb 2020, had ported at Abu Dhabi (UAE), Khor Fakkan (UAE), Muscat, Oman and was to reach Mangaluru on Saturday. It was to proceed to Goa and Mumbai port on Sunday and Monday, respectively. “But, given the directions and jurisdiction from the government, it is unlikely that the ship will get a clearance on those ports as well,” the NMPT authority said.

The officials stated that this measure had to be taken despite the crew of the ship convincing the port authorities that the passengers and its crew did not show any symptoms of coronavirus and were free from the viral infection. Meanwhile, Managing Director of Globe Travels William D'Souza said that being the local travel service provider, they had to look into the travel and services of 700 passengers of MSC Lirica who had opted for a ground tour in Mangaluru.

“As a matter of premium service, we had hired buses from Bengaluru, arranged for guides and also scheduled to visit local temples, the artisan village in Pilikula and Soans farms. A few of the travellers had also requested a visit to the thousand pillar Basadi at Mudabidri, Gomateshwara Statue in Karkala and Udupi. But since NMPT officials had not kept us in the loop of communication, we are likely to face losses as the passengers themselves have not been allowed to disembark,” D'souza said.

Speaking to The News Minute, Rajan Naidu, Managing Director of Shrine Voyages, responsible for handling the passengers of MSC Lirica, said that the manner in which NMPT port handled the matter was not appropriate. “Firstly, the passengers while boarding were cleared for all viruses by the Dubai and Muscat government. In fact, prior to boarding, 500 passengers who had a history of travelling to coronavirus-affected countries and 100 passengers from Italy were denied travel. Indian Immigration had allowed the ship and passengers to travel so there was no reason for NMPT officials to act so harshly,” he said.

Further, Naidu added Mumbai port authorities allowed another cruise ship, MV Celebrity Constellation, which had a similar travel route, to dock at Mumbai port on Saturday morning at 8 am. “If it’s a Central government order, it is unclear why NMPT authorities are acting differently. No circular was issued, we simply received a message from the traffic manager at 8.30 pm on Friday, after that no one received any call, even for clarification. Passengers are facing undue mental stress and several local workers are being affected,” he said.

He also added that he had flown 25 language-speaking guides from Delhi, ensured buses were brought from Bengaluru for the cruise tour and due to the last-minute change, the travel agencies have incurred a huge loss.

Meanwhile, the NMPT authorities said that till March 31, four more ships — including MS Albatros, MS Costa Fortuna, MS Vikingson, M V Seven Seas Mariner — are supposed to reach Mangaluru port. “Approximately 5,000 tourists are supposed to disembark, but subject to the effective directive by NMPT, the ships will be turned away,” an official said.

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