“Mein Schiff 3” docks in Cuxhaven under strict security precautions
HWG members are intimately involved with the preparations
Since the end of April 2020, the cruise ship Mein Schiff 3 has been docked at the Steubenhöft in Cuxhaven. To date, it is the largest passenger ship to ever dock at the historic pier, which is ca. 400 meters long.
The ship, which belongs to the TUI Cruises company, embarked from the Canary Islands on 18 April. The vessel, which is roughly 300 meters long, was carrying approximately 2,900 persons from more than 60 nations, all of whom were crew members of Mein Schiff 3 or of other cruise ships operated by TUI Cruises. The last passengers had disembarked from the vessel on 23 March in the Mediterranean. However, for the company it was no easy task in finding a suitable port with reliable supply of the vessel with, inter alia, potable water and fuel, and also with the necessary waste disposal. Many ports, such as those in Spain, could not be used on account of the coronavirus pandemic. In this emergency, Cuxhaven offered to accept the ship. Upon arriving in Cuxhaven, the crew had already been underway for more than four weeks without outside contact and, on board the ship, they had been free of symptoms of COVID-19. This was a precondition set by the local authorities prior to authorizing the vessel to dock in Cuxhaven. In addition to supplies, some 1,200 crew members are to be provided safe passage back to their home countries.
In preparing to muster out the crew, members of the Cuxhaven Port Association and port operator Niedersachsen Ports (NPorts) worked closely with public entities such as the Federal Police and the County Health Office. Cuxhaven’s Lord Mayor Uwe Santjer and County Representative Kai-Uwe Bielefeld were included in the organization. Subject to strict security, Cuxhaven agreed to permit the mariners and service workers to begin their homeward journeys. The top priority was the security of the crew and the people on land. The plan envisaged that the roughly 1,200 crew would disembark within four days and be brought by chartered buses to departure airports. Because of the sudden closure of some Asian airports and tightened immigration rules, the departure of many of the crewmembers was severely delayed.
“As a major Lower Saxony seaport, it was a matter of course for the city and for the county of Cuxhaven to make it possible for large parts of the crew on board Mein Schiff 3 to begin their ardently desired homeward journeys, while working together closely with all participating official entities and while taking into account all health and security requirements, in particular in light of the coronavirus crisis,” declared Lord Mayor Uwe Santjer and County Representative Kai-Uwe Bielefeld.
“In light of the background of the many participants and the limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic, coordination was a major logistical challenge. However, thanks to the excellent cooperation between local authorities, TUI and the port, the preparations proceeded flawlessly, and so the ship was able to dock in Cuxhaven,” added Arne Ehlers, the Vice Chairman of the Cuxhaven Port Association and managing director of BREB GmbH & Co. KG.
Following flu-like symptoms arising in 15 crew members, the circle of contacts of the affected individuals and all systematically relevant members of ship management and crew were subject to 250 tests. One of these was positive for coronavirus. The affected person and his circle were isolated on board immediately. Following this, the entire crew was retested – a further eight were positive. All nine affected individuals subsequently left the vessel and were quarantined in hospitals. Apart from two cases which have minor symptoms, the other cases are otherwise asymptomatic.
In the meanwhile, the company has, considering all prevailing security measures, arranged return flights for roughly 1,200 healthy individuals which, prior to the same, were tested negative twice. On the 8th and 11th, the first charter flights started to Ukraine, Indonesia, and other countries.