SA ports permitting cruise liners to dock only for essentials or repatriation

20 May 2020 - 13:09 By Suthentira Govender
Cruise ships in SA waters may dock for essentials such as fuel or food, and for the repatriation of local crew members.
Cruise ships in SA waters may dock for essentials such as fuel or food, and for the repatriation of local crew members.
Image: File

Despite a ban on passenger liner operations, SA's ports are continuing to receive urgent requests from international cruise vessels to dock for fuel, supplies or the repatriation of local crew.

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) told TimesLIVE it has been considering requests from passenger liners “case by case”.

“None of the cruise liners currently calling have any passengers on board,” said Capt Sabelo Mdlalose, TNPA's acting chief harbour master. “The banning of passenger liner operations at a number of ports globally, including South Africa, because of Covid-19, has left the cruise industry in limbo. 

“These vessels would have disembarked passengers several weeks ago elsewhere and their crews have had to remain on board for an extended period as the ships make their way across the globe. 

“As the port landlord, we have a duty to assist ships requiring essential services like bunkering and replenishment of supplies, as this becomes an issue of safety of life at sea. 

“However, we ensure that all safety precautions are taken and that a risk assessment is conducted for each vessel by the joint operations centre at each port,” said Mdlalose.

SA's 2019-20 cruise season typically ends in late April to early May. 

“Ministerial regulations signed into effect by the minister of transport, Fikile Mbalula, on March 18 2020 initially prohibited further cruise liner calls unless for disembarkation of a returning South African citizen and/or a permanent resident, or embarkation of a departing foreign national.”

Mdlalose said subsequent marine notices issued by the South African Maritime Safety Authority provided for the accommodation of cruise liners in specific circumstances. 

“We assure South African citizens that these vessels are being managed in accordance with the regulations and all Covid-19 protocols, including ensuring that the vessels have been at sea for a 14-day quarantine before docking in South Africa, and also ensuring that any disembarking individuals go into quarantine when they come ashore,” said Mdlalose.