Jamaican cruise ship workers inbound, but Gov’t insists no formal approval given

Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says that while some 1,000 Jamaican cruise ship workers are en route to the island, the Government has not given the Royal Caribbean liner, or any vessel for that matter, formal approval to disembark in local waters.

In a statement on Sunday, May 17, Tufton conceding that the Jamaican Government was in advanced talks for the repatriation of the cruise ship workers, called the reports of an inbound vessel ‘shocking’.

“The ministry has been actively participating in negotiations that have been underway for the repatriation of Jamaican crew members and the consultations are being held to determine the safest method for this to be done. Given the state and nature of the discussions, there was no reason to believe that a ship could be on its way to Jamaica without the knowledge or consent of the Government of Jamaica,” Tufton said.

Notwithstanding the surprise, Tufton assured that the Government has begun looking at solutions to ensure the safety of frontline workers, the soon-to-be repatriated crew and the wider Jamaican public.

See the statement in full below:

“The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to note that as at today’s date no formal approval has been provided for any vessel to be granted permission for the disembarking of any person from cruise ships in any of the ports of Jamaica. It is important that the public notes that the request for disembarking or “pratique” is governed by procedures outlined in the Quarantine Act and the Public Health Act. These procedures are known and utilised by the cruise ship industry and form part of the overall maritime arrangements of the Government of Jamaica.

In my statements today in the media, it was outlined that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has no knowledge of a ship coming into harbour and neither do we have any information or any knowledge of any arrangement for a specific date this action to be taken. The ministry has been actively participating in negotiations that have been underway for the repatriation of Jamaican crew members and the consultations are being held to determine the safest method for this to be done. Given the state and nature of the discussions, there was no reason to believe that a ship could be on its way to Jamaica without the knowledge or consent of the Government of Jamaica.

It should be noted that as a government, we must ensure the safety of all parties in this matter and as such we must put in place the requisite resources to enable the staff within the public health system to be able to respond to all eventualities. This must be done with due consideration for the requisite testing; the quarantine of individuals in spaces that are suitable, and which reduces the risks of cross contamination; and the clinical care of all persons who reside on the ship once they arrive in Jamaican waters.

The Government stands ready to ensure that our citizens are returned to the island and is making every effort to identify and mobilise the resources required to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with the reparation exercise. The Government is ensuring that all support can be provided once [an] agreement has been reached on the terms and date of the arrival in accordance with the appropriate international laws and the laws of Jamaica.”  

In the meantime, 55 Jamaican crew members aboard Royal Caribbean cruise line’s Adventure of the Seas vessel have retained the service of an attorney, according to a report from the Jamaica Observer.

The attorney, Jennifer Housen, has since written to the Jamaican Government indicating same.

The crew members are among the 1,044 Jamaicans on-board the ship that is expected to arrive in Jamaican waters tomorrow.