PHNOM PENH - A cruise ship carrying 1,455 guests and 802 crew that has been turned away from at least five ports in Asia, including Yokohama, has been given permission to dock in a Cambodian seaport, its operator announced Wednesday.
A senior Cambodian government official told Kyodo News that the decision to let the Westerdam cruise ship operated by Holland America Line to dock in the southwestern seaport of Sihanoukville was based on humanitarian grounds.
"We will arrive at 7:00 a.m. local time on Thursday...and will remain in port for several days for disembarkation. Guests will be able to go ashore. All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support," the company said in a situation update on its website.
Since it sailed off from Hong Kong on Feb. 1, the cruise ship had been turned away by Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam and Thailand over fears that some of its passengers may have been infected by the new coronavirus.
"All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their ever been," the company said.
Asked why Cambodia allowed the ship to dock, Prime Minister Hun Sen told local media outlet Fresh News, "Where should they go if they (ports) are all closed."
He said this "demonstrates Cambodia's outstanding humanitarian work and commitment for the world to take care of other nationalities. If others not accept, Cambodia accept."
Or Vandin, the Cambodian Health Ministry's secretary of state, said her ministry is well prepared with a strong quarantine team to handle any contingencies.
She added that if the disembarking passengers and crew have no health-related problems, "of course they must be allowed to enjoy their holidays in Cambodia."
The cruise was previously scheduled to disembark Feb. 15 in Yokohama, Japan.
Another cruise ship docked at Yokohama, the Diamond Princess, has been placed in quarantine there since a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have been infected with the virus in early February. Of the 203 confirmed cases in Japan, 174 are passengers and crew on the ship, operated by Princess Cruises.
According to Holland America, the Westerdam guests "will disembark in Sihanoukville over the next few days and transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh for forward travel home."
"Holland America Line will arrange and pay for all flights home, in addition to the full cruise refund and 100 percent future cruise credit already communicated," it said.