Three passenger vessels will idle here with the only crew and without passengers while the U.S. embargoes cruise operations, the Port of Oakland said. The Port said it has not received reports of any cases of coronavirus associated with the vessels.
According to the Port, two Norwegian Cruise Line vessels will tie up at Oakland’s Outer Harbor Terminal, which is currently not in use for the Port’s container shipping business. Another will dock at Howard Terminal on the Oakland Estuary. That terminal is no longer considered large enough for container operations. The ships could remain at berth for 2-to-3 months, according to the cruise line.
The first two vessels are scheduled to arrive May 9. The third is expected May 10.
The Port said it is making berth space available because approximately 100 cruise ships worldwide are seeking safe harbor. An estimated 80,000 crew members are aboard passenger liners at sea waiting to tie up. Other U.S. ports, for example some in Florida and Virginia, are already providing berth space for cruise ships.
“We’re a container port, but we’re still in the shipping business,” said Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan. “These ships are under federal requirements to report health concerns, and we understand that they haven’t had a history of coronavirus, so we’ll do what we can to help.”
The Coast Guard and Norwegian Cruise Lines have not reported any cases of coronavirus aboard the vessels, the Port said. The cruise operator said the ships would be managed by small crews. There are no plans for crew members to disembark in Oakland, the Port said. If crew members must disembark, the cruise line would have to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control first, the Port said. That would require submitting a disembarkation plan to state, federal and Port authorities.
No passengers would be on board when the ships arrive nor would the vessels conduct passenger operations while in Oakland, the cruise line said.
The U.S. government has banned cruise operations at U.S. ports during the coronavirus pandemic. Most cruise lines globally have suspended operations.
Oakland doesn’t serve passenger liners, but in March, it provided an emergency berth to the cruise ship Grand Princess. Hundreds of passengers disembarked from that ship, some who tested positive for COVID-19.
Numerous cruise ships globally have reported exposure to coronavirus. The Port re-emphasized, however, that it has not received any reports of coronavirus cases among passengers or crews on the Oakland-bound ships.
The Port said it regularly provides berth space to cargo ships in long-term lay-ups. The ships are located at sites not actively used for vessel operations, the Port added.