UK-based Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) has confirmed that two of its cruise ships, Columbus and Vasco da Gama, had rendezvoused 12 nautical miles off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, to undertake a transfer and repatriation operation involving 239 passengers.
The ship-to-ship passenger exchange by tender operation on Wednesday, March 18, followed the company’s recent announcement on March 13 that all cruise operations were being suspended and voyages curtailed with the CMV fleet returning to their home ports due to the recent coronavirus outbreak.
CMV claims that, despite representations and last-ditch mercy pleas to the Thai authorities, the Port of Phuket remained closed to cruise ships along with all other ports in South East Asia and the wider Indian sub-continent, thus rendering repatriation by air impractical. Permission had, however, been granted by the local port authorities to take on provisions and bunkers off the coast of Phuket before the ships’ onward voyages.
Columbus was operating a four-month cruise carrying 1,020 passengers before its voyage curtailment in Semarang, Indonesia, while Vasco da Gama was operating a northbound voyage from Fremantle and Singapore via the Suez Canal to Tilbury carrying 839 passengers before its voyage curtailment.
The operation saw the transfer of over 500 pieces of luggage and 239 passengers with the transfer of provisions all undertaken by tender. The operation commenced at 6:30 local time and was completed by 12:00 on Wednesday.
Columbus is now undertaking a 7,842-nautical mile voyage directly back to the UK with 907 passengers including 602 British nationals and 619 crewmembers onboard. The voyage includes a technical call in Colombo, Sri Lanka, then via the Suez Canal with a final technical call before arriving back in Tilbury on April 13.
Vasco da Gama is now undertaking a 2,837-nautical mile voyage directly back to Australia with 952 passengers including 907 Australian and New Zealand nationals and 552 crewmembers onboard arriving back in Fremantle on March 27.
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