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Hawaii officials say passengers and crew must remain on 2 cruise ships heading to Honolulu Harbor

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The cruise ship Westerdam docked at Pier 2 on Tuesday.

    DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The cruise ship Westerdam docked at Pier 2 on Tuesday.

Hawaii Department of Transportation officials said this afternoon that two cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers and crew members will be allowed to dock at Honolulu Harbor but no one on board will be allowed to leave the ships.

The announcement is an about-face on guidelines announced earlier that came under fire from Oahu resident concerned about the coronavirus outbreak.

Transportation officials said in today’s statement that the Harbors Division is prepared to accept the two ships at Honolulu Harbor for refueling and restocking of food and supplies, but their passengers and crews will not be allowed to leave the ships.

“All cruise ships are on a 30-day pause in operations that took effect March 14,” the announcement said. At the time of that directive, however, the two ships were already at sea.

The decision to not allow the passengers and crew to disembark came after the governor’s Tuesday announcement of the state’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” effort, where he directed visitors to consider postponing their travel to Hawaii for at least 30 days, transportation officials said.

Both ships have no confirmed cases of COVID-19, they said.

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel, carrying 1,700 passengers, was not permitted to unload its passengers in American Samoa’s Port of Pago Pago. It is expected to arrive Sunday.

Holland America Line’s Maasdam, carrying 842 guests and 542 crew members, is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu on Friday at Pier 2. Its port call in Hilo was canceled, and state officials said Honolulu was the preferred harbor.

“The health and safety of all people in Hawaii is always at the forefront of operational decisions,” DOT Director Jade Butay said in a written statement this afternoon. “Presently, all state resources are focused and directed towards containing the spread of COVID-19.

“Allowing more than 2,500 passengers and crew to disembark will further strain these resources. HDOT and the State are allowing the ships to dock at Honolulu Harbor so they may refuel and restock.

“Neither ship had originally planned to make Hawaii its final port and both will carry on to mainland destinations, where more resources can be marshalled to handle the passengers and crew properly.”

Gov. David Ige said on Tuesday that all cruise ship passengers will be screened by thermal scanning and interviews by physicians before disembarking in Honolulu starting Friday.

However, Hawaii residents, with fears of more coronavirus spread by travelers, have expressed opposition to cruise ship passengers disembarking at Hawaii’s ports, including Honolulu Harbor.

Many questions and rumors reared up after the Westerdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship, arrived and its crew disembarked at Pier 2 on Monday. It departed Tuesday.

DOT officials did not respond Tuesday to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as to how many of the ship’s 680 crew members and 18 contract service staff disembarked.

An internal memo by the Foreign Trade Zone management, and obtained by the Star-Advertiser, said that the vessel’s onboard doctor would be conducting the screening.

All 16 COVID-19 cases in Hawaii were deemed as transmitted due to travel, and not by community spread, the state now says. In one instance thought to have been Hawaii’s first community spread case, a young woman who works as a tour guide at Kualoa Ranch is believed to have contracted the virus from a visitor.

Thus far, 16 cruise ships have canceled scheduled visits to Hawaii during the 30-day suspension in operations, the DOT said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Correction: The caption in an earlier version included an incorrect name for the cruise ship Westerdam.
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