SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) — Reports reaching local media outlets indicate that Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs made a decision not to allow the disembarkation of passengers from Cruise Ship MS Aida Diva today Thursday, March 5, 2020, at the SXM Harbor.
Her decision is based on the failure of the local Agent for the Cruise Ship to provide a Health Declaration for the vessel before its arrival and within a specified timeframe. It is a standard procedure for Agents for Cruise Ships to send the relevant Health Declarations for ships they handle at least 48-hours before the specific ship arrives in port. They have a second and third option of delivering the Health Declaration 24-hours or 12-hours before reaching their destination.
The stipulated time allows the Cruise Ships to assess the health condition of the passengers on board before entering any port so they can alert the local health authorities in the unlikely event of an emergency. In the case of MS Aida Diva, there were no reported cases of health risks. However, the Cruise Ship was penalized based on the Agent's apparent failure to provide the documents to the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) within the stipulated deadlines.
Under normal circumstances, the CPS through the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), would have given the all-clear for the vessel to berth and the disembarkation of the 2629 passengers and crew would have been allowed.
Reports indicate that since the vessel was also in need of fueling and St. Maarten was its next scheduled fueling port, MS Aida Diva was allowed to refuel before leaving for its next destination. Unconfirmed reports are that Port St. Maarten is in discussions with the Agency for MS Aida to assess the situation and determine corrective action to avoid future reoccurrence.
Meanwhile, many local tour operators have expressed concern over the significant loss of business and the negative impact of the decision to refuse the disembarkation of MS Aida's passengers. Some speculations are that the loss to the island is more than three-quarters of a million dollars.