New Zealand immigration has refused entry to some of the crew they deem unimportant at Le Laperouse Ponant, which will offer its New Zealand program in February.
Meanwhile the New Zealand Cruises Association (NZCA) said in a statement it was confident that all crew members were essential to its operations and that they could not be replaced by New Zealanders in such short time.
“This is a case where one Ministry is giving and another is taking. Government departments should start talking to each other, not taking separate actions that are once again hurting the tourism industry,” said NZCA Chief Executive Officer Kevin O’Sullivan.
“The Immigration Minister has tried to portray the decision as Ponant’s fault for not following procedures, but that’s not the case. Once the waiver was granted, Ponant provided NZ Immigration with information about visa requirements for crew, allowing ample time to respond to and follow up on applications when they had gathered the requested information more than three weeks ago, “continued O’Sullivan.” They did everything that was asked. by the New Zealand Government to offer safe domestic shipping in New Zealand. “
To meet COVID-19’s requirements for crew isolation, the ship has been slow to evaporate from its final port, testing everyone on board regularly.
Le Laperouse is scheduled to be in Auckland on Saturday for New Zealand’s COVID-19 maintenance and testing work, with the first voyage starting February 8.
A luxury expedition cruise ship “hovering” off New Zealand waters has been detained at the border because most of its crew has been denied visas.
According to the tour operator, Le Lapérouse’s crew had prior approval from the Ministry of Health to enter New Zealand.
Le Lapérouse is a 264 passenger ship operated by the Ponant shipping company.
The ship was granted an economic exemption on December 18 to operate New Zealand’s special shipping season from February 8, but the vessel is now being held at sea pending further decisions.
The owners of French shipping company Ponant said they had been granted an exemption last year to operate local expeditions with a maximum of 100 New Zealand guests at a time.
A company spokesman Michael Corbett said it was a “shock decision” by INZ to only approve 25 percent of their crew visas.
Ponant and related government agencies were actively involved in today’s discussion to resolve this issue, he said.
But Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said when Le Laperouse was given permission to travel to New Zealand “the agreement was on condition that Le Laperouse obtain the necessary visas from Immigration New Zealand”.
“I want to be clear, our borders are closed.” he says.
“It was explained to the ship’s agents at least twice,” said Faafoi.
“I understand that INZ [Immigration New Zealand] received a border exemption request for 90 foreign crew members on board 48 hours before the ship began its journey to New Zealand. INZ granted visas to 29 crew members deemed essential for the operation of the ship to travel to New Zealand for the purpose of sending it to business and for repair or repairs. Immigration refused visas for the other 61 crew members who were deemed unimportant for the purposes of the ship’s trip here, “he said.
This staff includes hairstylists, bartenders and masseuses.
“The ship must wait for the visa decision to be finalized to ensure those on board comply with New Zealand immigration requirements when the ship enters our borders,” he said.
“I want to explain, our borders are closed,” he said.
Wild Earth Travel Director Aaron Russ chartered a ship from a Ponant operator. Seven expeditions are planned around New Zealand, with the first to start in Auckland on 8 February.
Travel plans for up to 700 Kiwis are now a mess.
The ship has room for 92 passenger cabins.
What’s next for the ship?
Officials spoke with the ship about options – one of those options was to turn around, Faafoi said.
The other is the boat dock, but 61 staff will be asked to leave “immediately”.
Faafoi said the ship was still sailing, even though the visa application was refused.
He said the company that regulated the cruise had started marketing cruises in New Zealand.
Faafoi said he would generously call him “unwise”. He said he needed to be “diplomatic” about his comments about the event – which is why he wouldn’t go any further than “unwise”.
If the ship arrives to New Zealand, the 61 people will be quarantined on the ship until they are sent home – or they will be “detained”.
Faafoi did not specify where they would be detained.
The ship has a French flag, Faafoi said.
If the ship anchors here, the 61 crew members will be sent home at their own expense. But he said the best outcome was that the ship would turn around.
“Our borders are closed,” he said repeatedly.
Letting 61 workers enter would set a very bad precedent.
Tour operator Viva said the ship was currently less than 300 miles from Auckland, having sailed from Asia.
“All crew members have been isolated for 27 days, have undergone 4 negative PCR tests and are fully trained in company safe protocols for Covid, safety and emergency operations.”
Mr Singh told the ABC that 16 of the 18 crew members at Anastasia were from India, along with a Filipino and a Russian.
Mr Singh said MSC had been supplying food through Chinese agencies, but mental health problems, lack of medical support, and decreased drinking water quality were exacerbating their problems.
“One of the crew members, his mind is unstable. He tried to kill himself,” Singh said.
“Others have rashes because the water supplied from China is of poor quality.”
He said the crew’s isolation had been exacerbated by this Covid-19 travel restrictions, which forced them to remain on the ship since joining the ship in November 2019.
Since being stranded near the Chinese coast more than four months ago, the crew has not been contacted by the Government or any organization, according to Singh.
They are now approaching the media in India and Australia for help.
“We have to go home,” said Mr Singh.
‘We cannot do anything in front of Chinese authorities’
MSC said the delay in getting the crew back on land was because the charterer had explored options to dock on the ship at another port.
In other words, the welfare of the crew depends on a third party whose identity was not disclosed by MSC.
A spokesman from MSC Australia’s headquarters in Fremantle said the company was “very concerned about the welfare of the seafarers on board and in contact with them”.
“MSC has taken a number of steps to try to free the sailors on board where crew changes have been long overdue and urgently needed,” the spokesman said.
“MSC has proposed options for crew replacement, but so far nothing has been approved.”
What the Australian Government can do is also very limited, as neither the ship nor the crew are Australian, and they are currently in Chinese waters.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said it “has no jurisdiction” over Anastasia.
Meanwhile, the Australian unions said they were powerless on the matter as none of the crew members were members of the existing union.
Mr Singh said they had approached the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) for help.
The ITF issued an open letter last month, urging the governments of China, India and Australia “to cooperate and immediately end the stalemate around the berth of coal carriers in Chinese ports”.
However, Mr Singh is not optimistic about the results.
“The company tried very hard, but they were helpless, they gave up, because they said: ‘We can’t do anything in front of the Chinese authorities'”.
Singh said they were also unable to leave Chinese waters, as they were warned by coal importers and charterers that the Chinese Navy and port authorities could confiscate the ship and arrest its crew if they did.
The UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) told the ABC it was aware of the seafarers’ concerns.
“We are engaging with relevant member states, including flag countries to ensure they are aware of the situation,” said an IMO statement.
“IMO is also involved with other relevant stakeholders, including trade organizations.”
The IMO did not specify what involvement this was, or if the organization had raised seafarers’ concerns to the relevant member state.
China blames the deadlock on the tenants
About 21 nautical miles northeast of Anastasia, another Indian aircraft carrier, Jag Anand, was also loaded with Australian coal and stuck in Bohai Bay.
It has been stranded off China’s northeast coast since June, having arrived at Jingtang Port.
Last month, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said China had never prevented Jag Anand from leaving Chinese waters.
“China has clear provisions regarding epidemic prevention and control at ports and quarantine requirements for seafarers,” Wang said.
“The Chinese side has made it easy for the seafarers involved while complying with these provisions.”
He claimed that the charterers were unwilling to adjust the ship’s journey because of “commercial interests”.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities, including the MOFA, Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) and local government officials, never discussed Anastasia’s plight in previous statements.
The ABC has also asked MSA for comment.
‘If you want to have a trade war, at least leave us alone’
An Air New Zealand crew member who has tested positive for Covid-19 may have contracted the virus in the United States.
The Health Ministry said preliminary genome testing found no link between positive cases and existing cases in New Zealand.
Comparisons with international samples show that it came from the United States, the ministry said today.
The exact source of the positive cases has not been confirmed, and a ministry investigation is ongoing.
Crew members arrived in New Zealand on December 9 on a flight from the United States.
They tested positive as part of mandatory testing within 48 hours of returning from the country.
The ministry said Air New Zealand had provided assurance that the person had met all requirements for crew flying to and from the US – and the risk to the general public was considered low.
While abroad, the flight crew is located legally required wear protective equipment when in direct contact with passengers or when outside of their aircraft or accommodation.
They must travel directly to their accommodation and cannot leave except for emergencies.
Aircrews flying the “high risk” route – which includes Los Angeles and San Francisco – must also follow legal requirements on their return to New Zealand including mandatory medical examinations and a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arrival.
They do not have to undergo managed isolation, but must isolate themselves until they test negative.
Covid-19 Countermeasure Minister Chris Hipkins said this afternoon a positive case shows the system is working.
“We see evidence of successful protective measures with this newest Air New Zealand crew member.
“We know there is an extra risk for people coming and going who are part of the flight crew,” he said.
“We cannot accept them in two weeks of isolation, or we will never have planes coming and going. It would not be practical.
“This person has been isolated since they came back, they got the tests as expected [and] they are not showing any symptoms at this time.
“All crew members have tested negative, so there is actually no risk of spreading it in the community.”
All other crew members have returned negative test results and are in isolation.
Three new cases
The ministry also confirmed three new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, all in managed isolation.
There are no new community cases.
Two of the new cases arrived from the United States, and one from the UK. They have all been moved to Jet Park’s quarantine facility in Auckland.
One previously reported case has now recovered, bringing the total number of active cases in New Zealand now to 56.
There were 4245 tests yesterday.
The previous case
It was announced yesterday that crew members would arrive in New Zealand on December 9 on a flight from the US.
They tested positive as part of mandatory testing within 48 hours of returning from the United States.
The ministry said Air New Zealand had assured him the person had met all of the requirements for crew flying to and from the US – and the risk to the general public was considered low.
While genome sequencing has not yet been completed, preliminary results suggest no link between test crew members and existing New Zealand cases. Comparisons with international samples show that it came from the United States, the ministry said.
All other crew members returned negative and were isolated.
The total number of confirmed cases in New Zealand is 1,740.
There are six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation that were announced on Friday.
At that time, there were no community cases and the total number of cases in New Zealand stood at 57.
Of the six new cases, five were active and one history:
• One case arrived in New Zealand on 26 November, from South Africa via the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. This person was tested for being in a travel bubble with two confirmed cases and at an Auckland quarantine facility.
• One case arrived in New Zealand on 1 December, from Sweden via Qatar and Australia. These people were tested because they were in a travel bubble with two confirmed cases, and were in an Auckland quarantine facility.
• One case arrived in New Zealand on 3 December, from Great Britain via the United Arab Emirates. These people are being tested because they are in a travel bubble with a confirmed case, and are in an Auckland quarantine facility.
• One case arrived on December 3 from the United Kingdom via the United Arab Emirates. This person tested positive on routine testing around day 3, and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
• One case arrived on December 3 from the United Arab Emirates. These people are being tested because they are in a travel bubble with a confirmed case, and are in an Auckland quarantine facility.
• One case arrived in New Zealand on 7 December, from Great Britain via Singapore, and was tested on arrival for symptoms. Serological testing revealed that this case was historical and therefore not contagious. This person is in a Christchurch-run isolation and quarantine facility.
Starting this week, the frequency of updates has been reduced to four times a week.
New Zealand had its first confirmed case of Covid-19 on February 28, and starting March 3, daily updates have been provided by the Ministry of Health.
Last Monday, the ministry announced it was cutting the frequency of renewals to four times a week.
Updates are now scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
No new cases have been reported in the community since November 21, when the last case linked to the Auckland Defense Force cluster was reported. The person has now tested negative and there are currently no active cases registered in the community.