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‘We’Ll Help - But Don’T Try To Land’: Govt Signals It Won’T Allow Cruise Ships To Send Anyone Here

Transport Minister Renward Wells.

Transport Minister Renward Wells.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Bahamas government signalled yesterday that it will not accept people infected with COVID-19 from ships stranded in Bahamian waters despite a US Coast Guard bulletin that foreign-flagged vessels should seek help from countries in which they are registered.

In a carefully worded statement, Transport Minister Renward Wells said The Bahamas would help people sheltering-in-place aboard cruise ships in its waters.

However, his statement did not express outright refusal to disembark sick passengers in this country, stopping well short of the language he used when a Fred Olsen cruise ship, with infected people on board, came this way last month.

On Wednesday, Rear Admiral EC Jones, commander of the Seventh Coast of the US Coast Guard, singled out The Bahamas as he urged foreign-flagged ships lingering beyond US territorial seas to seek flag state support because of the limited hospital capacity of US medical facilities. The rules apply to vessels carrying more than 50 people.

Mr Wells said in a statement: “The Bahamas has taken note of the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Information Bulletin…giving guidance to foreign passenger vessels located in the Seventh District Area of Responsibility. The bulletin makes reference to Bahamas-registered vessels in the context of limited medical facilities ashore in Miami and vicinity.

“We in The Bahamas have had a long standing and ongoing relationship with the US Coast Guard based on mutual interest and respect. The Bahamas is one of the first countries to have cooperated closely with the Coast Guard in combating human trafficking, narcotic trafficking and other illicit activities.”

Nonetheless, Mr Wells noted each party faces a unique challenge caused by the global pandemic and are “first and foremost” responsible for protecting their respective populations while doing its best to support people sheltering-in-place on board ships.

“We continue to work closely with the cruise industry,” he said, noting this country’s flag represents more ships than any other registry in the world.

“Our maritime authority works with our cruise ship owners in relation to the safe operation of these ships and the health and well-being of their passengers and seafarers,” he said. “Our nation has been responsive in enabling safe and responsibility solutions – within parametres - for cruise ships in the course of this pandemic.

“The cruise industry is facing an unprecedented crisis and we in The Bahamas, facing the same global crisis, are doing what we can to provide support. We have made intergovernmental contact where we could be helpful. We have devised safe methods of resupply of our flag cruise vessels that were running critically low on provisions, medical supplies and medical personnel. We have provided places of shelter, under carefully controlled conditions, for a number of vessels seeking to shelter in our waters. We have also given access to these sheltering vessels irrespective of country of registry, in the process accommodating ships of a number of flags in addition to our own.”

However, Mr Wells said, officials are aware that the country is trying to cope with the adversity Hurricane Dorian caused.

“We are indeed grateful for the tremendous generosity and kind assistance rendered by the United States during that catastrophic and challenging period,” he said. “However, we recognise that as a result of Hurricane Dorian, The Bahamas is still functioning with limited capacity and capabilities, socially, economically and financially.

“What we have not been able to do is take people from the ships ashore in our population centres. We are a small island developing state with a national population in the three hundred thousands. We are proud of the medical care that we afford our people, but it is scaled to our population size. Our system is not designed to deal with a massive influx of new COVID-19 patients from outside the country.”

In mid-March, the Braemar, which was turned away from The Bahamas and several Caribbean ports after passengers fell ill with COVID-19, was scheduled to dock in Cuba.

The island nation agreed to help transfer those aboard to planes bound for the United Kingdom, AP reported.

The Cuban government said it had decided to allow the Braemar to dock in the port of Mariel, about 35 miles (56 kilometres) west of the capital, “due to the urgency of the situation and the risk to the lives of sick people,” AP reported. Olsen Cruises said that the ship had 22 passengers and 21 crew members in isolation after displaying flu-like symptoms and five aboard who tested positive for the new coronavirus at the time.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 2 weeks ago

We must not succumb to bullying and threat tactics by the US government when they themselves (the world's most powerful nation with the greatest resources) refuse for health and safety reasons of the American people to grant onshore medical help to those on board these ships who are known to have either already contracted the Red China Virus or been exposed to it in a way that makes them likely asymptomatic carriers.

The states of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have many more healthcare resources available to them, including assistance from the US Federal Government, than our small nation could ever dream of having. That's just a plain simple fact, period! And the Southeastern Fleet of the US Coast Guard knows first hand just how badly crippled the Bahamas has been left in the aftermath Hurricane Dorian only seven months ago. I find it unbelieveable, no unfathomable, that the US Embassy in the Bahamas has not made it known to all US authorities that the Bahamas is not in a position to lend the assistance sought without jeopardising the overwhelming and total collapse of our very fragile and gravely under resourced healthcare system.

The number one duty of the Bahamian government at this time is to protect the Bahamian people to the maximum extent possible from an explosive outbreak of the Red China Virus that could end up taking the lives of many hundreds, possibly thousands, of souls. It's in the interest of the US at this time to help promote stability in our financially crippled country so that a serious vacuum is not created that allows the ruthless Xi Jinping led communist regime to succeed in its efforts to establish a strategic foothold in a small nation just off the coast of Florida.

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geostorm 4 months, 1 week ago

@ wellmudda, this is one time I can say I AGREE with you entirely!😶

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 2 weeks ago

In a carefully worded statement, Transport Minister Renward Wells said The Bahamas would help people sheltering-in-place aboard cruise ships in its waters.

He went on to say: "We have devised safe methods of resupply of our flag cruise vessels that were running critically low on provisions, medical supplies and medical personnel."

Minnis or D'Aguilar should be called on to explain exactly what Renward Wells meant when he uttered the two sentences immediately above. Anyone from our shores stepping on board those ships and interacting in any way with the crew and other persons sheltering on board, poses a great risk of bringing an uncontrollable explosive outbreak of the Red China Virus to our shores.

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moncurcool 4 months, 2 weeks ago

The Bahamas is not being bullied. They are ships registered in the Bahamas. The first obligations to those ships is the place where they are registered. No one forced us to register the ships. We going after the money made the choice. We can't now seek to drop the ball and say it is not our fault.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 1 week ago

Stop being an imbecile. Would you say these ships should be allowed at any of our ports if they contained tons and tons of explosives that could possibly kill many thousands of Bahamians? I think not. You also don't seem to understand that our medical doctors and nurses will soon be unable (unequipped) to help Bahamian victims of the Red China Virus which means they will be forced to begin practicing triage - literally deciding who to let live and who to let die. You need to wake up to the new reality my friend.

In any event, with proper accounting for all the costs of maintaining a ship registry, it can easily be shown that the net money made off of flagging ships in recent decades pales in comparison to the risks assumed by our country. Basically a net pittance, if that. And of course our country never had the means to ensure that it was adequately insured against all of the many great risks involved in flagging ships. The owners of these ships knew just what they were getting by the exceptionally low fees they were paying to carry our flag.

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joeblow 4 months, 1 week ago

@moncurcool... while simultaneously, countries have an obligation to their citizens. All passengers should be repatriated to their countries while the ship and crew remain offshore in Bahamian waters. That is the reasonable compromise!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months, 1 week ago

This can only be done by US Coast Guard air lifting them by helicopter to a secure facility at an airport in South Florida pending the arrival of aircraft from their home country to take them home.

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joeblow 4 months, 1 week ago

… how it is done is not as important as it getting done!

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TalRussell 4 months, 1 week ago

Who could've possibly known that unlike state Florida's - we colony of out islands overabundance medical supplies and Toilet-papers, places government in position tend needs possibly hundreds cruise ships and freighters flying colony's flag convenience. Nod once for yeah, twice for no?

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Bonefishpete 4 months, 1 week ago

Well maybe the Bahamas shouldn't register so many cruise ships as "Bahamas Registered".

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Bonefishpete 4 months, 1 week ago

Chickens coming home, something, something,something

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