The mystery of the Westerdam

One of the more puzzling aspects of the current Covid-19 outbreak has been a domino-effect panic surrounding passenger ship Westerdam (IMO 9226891)

The Westerdam has been denied entry to several ports due to fears of Covid-19, despite no-one on board being confirmed as having the virus. The vessel was on a 14-day voyage which departed Hong Kong on February 1st, but the ship was barred from the Japanese ports at Ishigaki Island on February 8th, Naha on February 9th, and probably Nagasaki on February 11th.

There were no Covid-19 infections aboard the vessel and all guests and crew remained safe. The ship has sufficient fuel and supplies to last until the end of the voyage, which is February 15th.

Thailand has become the latest country to bar passengers from the Westerdam from disembarking. It had already been turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines, leading to suspicions that the rejection was more along the lines of “there must be something wrong if other countries have turned it away” rather than hard facts. In Thailand the health minister himself publicly refused to grant the Westerdam permission to dock.

The ship has 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board.

 “We try to stay hopeful, because that’s all we’ve got: to be hopeful. But each day, that becomes a little bit more difficult when country after country rejects us,” one passsenger told Reuters.

Passengers on board the ship have been subjected to regular health checks, according to ship operator Holland America, a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp. There have been no reported cases of Covid-19 on board.

The World Health Organization and the Southeast Asian country’s deputy transport minister indicated that Thai health authorities could board the ship to conduct health checks and replenish the vessel with supplies.

The US, Canada, UK and the Netherlands were reported to be following closely the Westerdam’s situation and high-level communication with Thailand and the World Health Organization was understood to be underway, according to reports quoting the ship’s captain, Vincent Smit.

2004-built, Netherlands-flagged, 82,862 gt Westerdam is owned by Hal Antillen NV care of manager Holland America Line NV of Seattle, Washington, USA. It is entered with UK Club and Steamship Mutual.