By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE United States Coast Guard has told foreign-flagged cruise ships to be prepared to care for people with COVID-19 for an uncertain period of time at sea or seek help from countries in which they are registered.
Rear Admiral EC Jones, commander of the Seventh Coast, issued the directive in a new communication, singling out the Bahamas.
“Foreign flagged vessels that loiter beyond US territorial seas, particularly those registered in The Bahamas, that require a (medical evacuation) to a shoreside facility should seek flag state support prior to seeking support from the limited facilities in the US,” he wrote.
Asked about the matter during a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis was brief in his response.
He said: “There’s an ongoing discussion with ourselves and the US government.”
Rear Admiral Jones, whose Coast Guard district includes Florida, Puerto Rico, Georgia and South Carolina, wrote: "Medical facilities in the Port of Miami, for example, are no longer accepting MEDEVAC patients due to limited hospital capacity and it is expected that neighbouring counties will follow suit.”
The cruise ship industry is currently under a 30-day suspension of all trips from the US which took effect last month. But dozens of ships remain at sea.
The new rules apply to vessels carrying more than 50 people.
On Monday, The Tribune reported that Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas was anchored off the coast of Great Harbour Cay with 14 crew members positive for COVID-19.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar confirmed the matter, but said the ship would not be allowed to dock at any port in the country.
“RCCL has confirmed that they have a number of ships situated about 15 miles away from Coco Cay,” Mr D’Aguilar told The Tribune in a brief statement.
“The ship in question has not been to Nassau in 2020 and the last day it was at Coco Cay was on February 5, 2020. Obviously, it will not be allowed to dock at any port in The Bahamas.”
Coco Cay is a private island leased by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and reserved exclusively for the cruise line’s guests.
Mr D’Aguilar said on Sunday, there were five RCCL ships anchored in that area. The Oasis has not requested food or medical assistance from The Bahamas at this time, he said.