Coronavirus fear: Pariah cruise ship Westerdam may get Thai medical aid, but no port to dock

The Westerdam, which departed Hong Kong on Feb 1 on a 14-day Taiwan and Japan cruise, is currently in the Gulf of Thailand. The 1,455 guests and 802 crew members were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama on Feb 15.
The Westerdam, which departed Hong Kong on Feb 1 on a 14-day Taiwan and Japan cruise, is currently in the Gulf of Thailand. The 1,455 guests and 802 crew members were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama on Feb 15.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand said it would consider helping any sick person aboard the outcast Westerdam luxury cruise liner but stood by its decision to bar entry because of coronavirus concerns, as the ordeal continued for the 2,257 passengers and crew looking to disembark.

With the South-east Asian nation becoming the fifth country or territory to turn away the ship, the Westerdam is facing the risk of running low on food and other supplies. Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam have also rejected it on concerns over the virus, which has killed more than 1,000 people.

Carnival Corp's Holland America Line, the operator of the ship, has said there is no reason to believe there are any coronavirus cases on board. But Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul questioned on Wednesday (Feb 12) whether that could be known with certainty, while adding that he is ready to consider providing medical aid, food and water if asked.

"We must think about the safety of our people," Mr Anutin told reporters in Bangkok.

"We've been told that there are no cases of infection on the ship, but how can we be sure?"

The cruise ship could be forced to wait until it is in distress - running out of water, food or fuel - before international maritime laws and conventions kick in and legally obligate the closest country to admit the vessel or provide help, according to experts.

The Westerdam is currently in the Gulf of Thailand, according to Bloomberg data, with some of the passengers taking to Twitter to say that they heard they are being allowed to disembark in Bangkok on Thursday.

In a blog post earlier this week, the operator announced the ship was headed to Laem Chabang port, south-east of Bangkok, where passengers would end their journey on Feb 13.

The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on Feb 1 on a 14-day Taiwan and Japan cruise. The 1,455 guests and 802 crew members were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama on Feb 15. The ship has sufficient fuel and food provisions to last until the end of the voyage, according to a Holland America Line blog post.

Holland America Line has said that it is working with the authorities "to bring our guests into port as quickly as possible".