Coronavirus Pandemic

Combating coronavirus: Dubai hosts 13 stranded cruise liners, repatriates 39,000 people

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on April 22, 2020 | Last updated on April 22, 2020 at 03.53 pm
Combating, covid19, coronavirus, Dubai, hosts, 13 stranded cruise liners, repatriate, 39,000 people,

(Photo by Juidin Bernarrd/ Khaleej Times)

All patients and crew were tested for Covid-19 before leaving for their home countries.

A total of 29,000 cruise passengers and 10,000 crew members, stranded on-board 13 cruise ships, could fly home to their home countries, thanks to the quick action taken by Dubai Port authorities.

Dubai's Mina Rashid, a leading cruise destination in the Middle East, is playing host to these 13 stranded cruise liners, many of which were rejected entry into other ports across the region.

Furthermore, all patients and crew were tested for Covid-19 before leaving for their home countries, Mohammed Abdul Aziz Al Mannai, CEO - P&O Marinas and executive director, Mina Rashid, told Khaleej Times. All ships are presently berthed in Mina Rashid with a skeleton crew, and their status is being monitored by the port authorities, said Al Mannai.

During a media interaction on Wednesday, Al Mannai explained: "We allowed 13 vessels to come alongside our port. A total of nine cruise ships are homeporting here in Dubai, and four cruise liners had to way port. Actually, I am proud of the instructions I received from the Government of Dubai to give full support to the cruise industry during the crisis." Home porting is when ships are deployed to this region for six months, starting from October to end of April, which is the cruise season in the region. The remaining four vessels were passing through Dubai.

"In the meantime, several other ports have been closed across the world and have not allowed the people or the vessels to come alongside the port," said Al Mannai. The massive operations of testing and repatriating the passengers took up to three weeks. "We began sending them home from the March 3 and operations disembarkation continued till March 24," he added. It is said that passengers of several nationalities were sent back home to safety.

Among the stranded cruise ships forced to dock in Dubai on the outset of the coronavirus pandemic is AIDA Prima - a 300m liner capable of carrying 3,300 passengers. It was touring the Arabian Gulf when firms began suspending operations last month. It is the flagship of AIDA Cruises, owned by German cruise line AIDA and was built by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding at their shipyard in Nagasaki, Japan. On April 19, as a way of thanking Dubai, the ship's windows were lit up to spell out the message "Shukraan Dubai. We love 2 c u again". Other stranded cruise liners include MSC Bellissima, the Norwegian Jade and the Horizon. MSC Bellissima is a cruise ship operated by MSC Cruises with a capacity of 4,500 passengers.

When can the ships sail home?

Commenting on how long the stranded cruise liners would be berthed in Dubai, Mohammed Abdul Aziz Al Mannai, CEO - P&O Marinas and executive director, Mina Rashid, said it is difficult to provide an exact date. "All ports in Europe are shut down and these cruise liners are expected to be berthed at the Mina Rashid at least till the end of June because that's when the picture would likely become clear."

For safety reasons, the remaining crew were not allowed to interact with the media, however, they were seen waving at port workers and local authorities as they walked past the gigantic vessels. Mina Rashid can handle seven mega-cruise vessels or 25,000 passengers simultaneously.  


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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