Cruise Ships Balk At New Ebola Screening, Threaten Mass Cancellations
Last week Friday, Belize’s Ministry of Immigration announced new stringent measures for Ebola screening at two major entry points: the Phillip Goldson
International Airport and the Belize Harbor where cruise ships come in.
The Cruise Ship health screening protocol seemed problematic from the jump – if only because of the sheer volume of cruise visitors who come to shore
on cruise ship day and the tight schedule they are on. Imagine having to screen thousands of cruise ship passengers in a very short period of time. On
Monday, it was – to put it mildly – problematic, and that caused alarm with the major cruise lines – who threatened to pull scheduled cruises fast and
furious. The press asked the Tourism Minister about it today:….
Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism
"When these type of activity happen, as a government we have to be extremely cautious. The tourism industry is a very sensitive industry and it's the
bread and butter of many destinations. There was some measures that was taken, but the cruise lines are a business entity and they want to make sure
the passengers are safe onboard. There was majors, one particularly with the passports that was taken, we are revisiting that particular one. And I
believe that indeed, we're suppose to do so because for these people, this is not the first point of entrance, Belize is not the first destination. The
go to Honduras, then Mexico, then finally Belize, so we're looking at that and I hope by this evening we will have a concrete idea as to how we will
move forward in that direction."
Duane Moody, Channel 5 News Reporter
"Sir is there concern then where the Carnival cruise line might decide to pull it's port of call to Belize and of course affect the Belize cruise
"Adding to that, while he is asking if there is concerns, was there a letter or some form of correspondence that came in from the cruise line
threatening to do so?"
Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"No, all that i'm telling you is that they were worried about the measures we had taken, but i'm sure communication between both entities, of the
cruise line and our government officials and i'm sure by this evening that will be resolved.”
And, indeed, by the end of the day, a streamlined work around had been put into place which should make things move faster, while also ensuring the
safety of the public. The BTB’s Valdemar Andrade told us via phone how the workaround averted a cancellation of a cruise for tomorrow:…
Valdemar Andrade- Director, Cruise and Regional Initiatives, BTB
"Yes there was one cancellation that was scheduled for tomorrow from Royal Caribbean, but we manage to streamline the process and the navigator of the
seas will be in port tomorrow. The difference is that on Monday, what we did, we took the entire boarding party to English Caye and we put on the
health officer first and the health officer had to give clearance for the rest of the boarding party could board. That process took about 25 minutes
which caused a delay time in port, so in order to avoid that they are only putting on the health officer at English Caye and the rest of the boarding
party will do as normal when the come into the Belize City harbour. It shouldn’t affect the season, with this in place now we are able to ensure we
don't have any additional time in place. This morning we tested just putting at the English Caye harbour, just the pilot and the health officer and
Carnival cruise line reported that process went well."
Belize’s screening protocol will stay in place for as long as the Centers for Disease Control requires precautionary measures.
And if you’re wondering what’s this big cruise season we’re talking about - for 2104 alone almost one million cruise visitors are scheduled to arrive
in Belize – about three hundred thousand more than last year….