St Vincent Gov’t denies US-based airline from landing with stranded nationals

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Government has denied US-based airline Swift Air permission to land on the island, dashing hopes that an estimated 300 nationals employed with a US-based cruise line, would have arrived here on Thursday.

The sailors, employed with the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd have already spent several weeks in isolation aboard cruise ships amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19 pandemic). They are now expected to sail home, rather than fly, and it will be weeks before they set sail, the cruise line has said.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, speaking on a radio programme said that his government would not permit the Miami airline to land two planes carrying the sailors because Kingstown had no information about their health status.

The government has been in negotiations with Royal Caribbean to get the company to pay for 14 days’ quarantine of each sailor estimated at EC$150 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) per night.

Gonsalves read from an email from Bishen John, the chief executive officer of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority, who has been interfacing with Royal Caribbean, indicating that discussions had been ongoing with the cruise line and its, vice president Worldwide Port Operations, Captain Hernan Zini.

Zini had confirmed that Royal Caribbean has not received approval for the disembarking of crew members from the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prime minister cited John as saying. Additionally, Royal Caribbean had not repatriated any of the crew members to any Caribbean destination following the CDC’s new ‘no sail’ order on April 9, 2020.