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Jakarta Post

Bali follows East Java in turning away MV Viking Sun cruise ship over coronavirus fears

  • Komang Erviani

    The Jakarta Post

Denpasar, Bali   /   Sat, March 7, 2020   /   06:06 am
Bali follows East Java in turning away MV Viking Sun cruise ship over coronavirus fears Officials stand guard as the Norwegian-flagged MV Viking Sun cruise ship docks at Tanjung Emas Port in Semarang, Central Java, on Thursday. (Antara/Aji Styawan)

The Bali administration has decided to abort a plan to welcome the MV Viking Sun cruise ship and its passengers to the resort island on Sunday, as authorities prioritize public health amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

The 800 tourists from the United States and Australia aboard the cruise ship, which was initially scheduled to dock at Bali’s Benoa Port on Sunday, will therefore not be able to set foot on the island. 

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster announced the decision following a meeting with relevant authorities in the provincial capital of Denpasar on Friday. 

“We had to make a decision on whether we would allow [the cruise ship] to dock or not, and decided to scrap [the plan],” Koster said.

The governor said that authorities wanted to protect the island from the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, saying that they had to be careful and prioritize public health so as to prevent any possible negative impacts on Bali’s tourism. 

The resort island, which has experienced a decline in foreign tourist arrivals following the coronavirus outbreak, has not recorded any COVID-19 cases to date.

“As the best tourist destination in the world, we are very prone to health issues. Thus, we have to be careful,” Koster said, “We don’t want to chase a small amount money if it could have a major negative impact on tourism, the backbone of Bali’s economy.”

Previously, authorities in East Java turned away the MV Viking Sun and its 1,395 passengers and crew when it sought to dock at Tanjung Perak Port in the provincial capital of Surabaya on Friday.

Surabaya Mayor Tri “Risma” Rismaharini claimed to have received information that two passengers aboard the ship were suffering from a cold and fever. The passengers recently traveled to New Caledonia and Australia, which have recorded confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The Norwegian-flagged cruise ship was allowed to moor in Tanjung Emas Port in Central Java’s provincial capital on Thursday, but only to restock its supplies. The passengers were prohibited from disembarking. 

Denpasar Mayor Ida Bagus Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra said authorities in Bali had also taken the decisions of the Central Java and East Java administrations into account when they decided to turn the cruise ship away. 

Although health officials have already been deployed at the port to inspect all passengers entering the island, Rai Mantra said that they did not want to jeopardize the health of locals by granting entry to the cruise ship passengers. 

“We hope the decision will make our residents feel safe,” he said on Friday.

The MV Viking Sun previously docked in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, on Monday, where health authorities screened all passengers and crew upon arrival. The ship’s captain stated in the ship’s maritime declaration of health that everyone aboard the ship had been declared healthy.

According to state-owned port operator PT Pelabuhan Indonesia III (Pelindo III), the MV Viking was initially scheduled to dock at Benoa until Mar. 10 and sail to Lombok the next day, before returning to Surabaya on Mar. 14. After that, the ship would sail to Sri Lanka, where it is scheduled to arrive on Mar. 20.