Coronavirus-affected cruise liner with 131 Indians moved away from US port

Updated: Mar 18, 2020, 08:14 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon |

Families worried as they haven't gotten any information from the Ministry of External Affairs despite repeated attempts

The crew aboard the cruise liner
The crew aboard the cruise liner

Late on Monday night, Coronavirus-affected The Grand Princess cruise ship with 131 Indian crew, moved away from the Port of Oakland to be anchored off the San Francisco Bay. During mid-day's last conversation at 11 pm on Monday, a crew member said, "We have already started to sail but without any information."

The worst fears of the 131 Indians came true when the ship began moving out of Oakland anchorage. The crew is from various parts of India like Vasai, Goa, Delhi. mid-day, in its front-page report on Monday, had highlighted their plight, as they requested External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar to rescue them.

"We have no problem on the vessel, but we were not allowed to exit even when charter flights were available. Currently, we are able to move around in select areas on the ship. But once the quarantine begins, we will be forced to stay in our cabins. We have time and are hoping that the Indian government acts fast," said the crew member.

Adler Rodricks and other crew members have sent out a plea to External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar
Adler Rodricks and other crew members have sent out a plea to External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar

The group has not been contacted by the Indian Embassy or Consulate. "Some of the crew already have headaches and fever with dry cough. We don't know if they are carriers of COVID-19 as no tests have been done, nor do we have medical aid on board," the crew said.

Meanwhile, Bianca Rodricks, wife of Adler, a digital communication manager on the ship, said, "I spoke to Adler on Tuesday morning. The ship has moved out of Port of Oakland and has anchored a few nautical miles off San Francisco Bay. The captain has not informed the crew about the plans to quarantine or disinfect the ship."

A highly placed official from a shipping company said, "As per maritime traffic satellite images, the cruise ship left Port of Oakland on March 16 around 8.16 am and reached San Francisco Anchorage around 9 am. The distance would be a few nautical miles."

A satellite image shows the current location (blue dot, circled) of The Grand Princess
A satellite image shows the current location (blue dot, circled) of The Grand Princess

Meanwhile, advocate Godfrey Pimenta, who is related to Adler, said, "We were sure that the Indian government and MEA would help. There is some hope as the ship is in anchorage and not too far from the Port of Oakland. They can still be brought back."

"We still urge Indian and US authorities to intervene and help the Indian crew return home, where they are willing to be quarantined," said Pimenta.

MEA officials said that the Indian Embassy is discussing the crew's repatriation with US authorities. In the interest of their health, the crew may be quarantined on the ship if need be, the officials said.

What company says
The Grand Princess, in a statement, said that the US government authorities have come up with a plan to disembark the crew members and repatriate them via charter flights. "Princess Cruises has committed to pay for the ground transportation and charter flight costs," the statement read.

The disembarking crew will undergo health screening and those who are ill (for any reason) or symptomatic won't be allowed to fly. Those who are well but have no flights to travel in will stay under quarantine on the ship. While those requiring elevated care will be moved to medical facilities on land.

8.16am
Time on Monday when the ship left Port of Oakland

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