South Africans trapped on luxury cruise ship off Durban want to come home

By Tanya Waterworth & Duncan Guy Time of article published Mar 28, 2020

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Durban - As the luxury liner Queen Mary 2 anchored outside Durban on Friday, anxious families awaited news as to whether South African crew members would be allowed to disembark, or would have remain on the liner which will head to Southampton in the UK.

Meanwhile, minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu last night confirmed one SA death and was awaiting confirmation of a second death from Covid-19. Both fatalities were reported in the Western Cape and were women aged 28 and 48.

Mthembu also said the number of confirmed cases in the country on Friday night stood at 1170.

Off the uMhlanga coast, the Queen Mary 2 lay at anchor behind the MSC Orchestra, which was also temporarily moved out of the port.

A crew member’s mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she was “desperate” to see her daughter safely on home soil.

“There are about 18 South Africans on-board and, while some want to remain on the ship, some of them want to get home.

“I realise that our lockdown started on Friday, but I understand that the port authorities and the ship’s captain have been busy resolving the matter. I know the ship needs to refuel.

“It is the first time my daughter has worked on a cruise liner and she has been so enjoying it, but I’m a desperate mom and want to see my child home.

“I’m hoping they will allow those who want to come off to disembark and go into quarantine,” she said.

She added that she had received a lot of support from fellow South Africans as she waited for news about whether crew would disembark.

“It has made me feel quite teary. Today, I truly felt proudly South African,” she said.

THE Queen Mary seen through a long lens lying at anchor off uMhlanga yesterday. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad (ANA)

Another South African crew member’s partner had been driving up from Cape Town to fetch her this week, when his trip came to an abrupt stop.

“I got as far as Wilderness. I was so excited because I haven’t seen her for six months. But I do understand that she may have to go into quarantine if they are allowed to disembark.

"I felt disappointed, but I will be making another trip up to Durban,” he said.

According to Cunard Liners’ itinerary, the grand liner has been on a 2020 World Cruise, with its last port of call Mauritius.

Transnet Port Authority issued a statement: “The vessel has requested clearance to be allowed to dock in the port to receive bunkers (fuel) and stores. If approval is granted by the Department of Transport and the Port Health Unit of the Department of Health, the vessel will dock, refuel and disembark six South African crew members before setting sail for Southampton in the United Kingdom.

“The ship’s line Cunard announced earlier this month that it had ended its three international voyages early in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The cruise liner was already on her way to South Africa when the South African government announced a ban on cruise ships from March 18.

"She was not among the initial six cruise ships which authorities confirmed would be permitted to dock in the country as an interim measure, following new regulations promulgated by the minister of transport on March 18.

“The regulations prohibit any disembarkations, apart from any returning South African citizens or permanent residents, and prohibits embarkations unless they are for departing foreign nationals.

“Queen Mary 2 is returning from Australia almost empty. Passengers from Cunard’s three ships were flown home apart from those unable to fly because of medical conditions,” read the statement.

The Independent on Saturday

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