HANOI: Vietnam has denied two cruise ships permission to dock due to fears of coronavirus infections on board, Vietnamese state media and a cruise operator reported on Friday (Feb 14).
One of the ships was now heading towards Thailand, where it would be allowed to dock, a Thai official said.
Authorities in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province, home to the UNESCO world heritage site Ha Long Bay, decided on Tuesday (Feb 11) not to allow passengers of the German-owned AIDAvita cruise ship to disembark on Thursday, the state Vietnam News Agency (VNA) said.
"The vessel has docked in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, which have all reported coronavirus cases," VNA said.
"Not allowing AIDIvita's passengers to disembark (in Vietnam) is just a temporary solution to prevent the intrusion of diseases," VNA cited a local official as saying.
Germany's AIDA Cruises, the owner of the AIDAvita, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. AIDA Cruises is a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp.
The cruise liner left the Philippines port of Coron on Feb 10 bound for Vietnam via the South China Sea, according to data published by the Marine Traffic ship tracking website.
It had been scheduled to visit Ha Long Bay, in northern Vietnam, on Saturday, then proceed to the Vietnamese ports of Da Nang, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City from Feb 16 to Feb 20, according to CruiseMapper, a website which tracks cruise ships.
As of Friday evening, the AIDAvita was 176 km south of the Thai capital Bangkok, according to Marine Traffic.
It will dock at Laem Chabang on Friday night and health officials will board it on Saturday morning to examine passengers before allowing them to disembark, a Thai Marine Department spokeswoman said.
Stoking fears in countries that usually allow cruise ships to dock is the quarantine in Japan of the Diamond Princess, also managed by a unit of Carnival Corp. Of the 3,700 passengers and crew on that vessel, 218 have tested positive for the virus.
READ: Passengers on quarantined Diamond Princess cruise celebrate Valentine's Day
Passengers on another Carnival Corp cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries, including Thailand, over coronavirus fears, before they began to disembark in Cambodia on Friday.
The Norwegian Jade, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, was also denied permission to dock in Vietnam.
"Due to growing concerns regarding coronavirus in Asia, the ports we planned to visit in Vietnam are no longer open to accepting cruise ships," the Norwegian Cruise Line said.
The ship had no cases of the virus, its captain Frank Juliussen said in a letter to passengers.
"There is no illness on board the ship and no guests or crew members on the ship who hold Chinese, Macau or Hong Kong passports or have visited or transited through any of these areas," the letter read.
"Still, the port has proven to be unreasonable during this process and late last night informed us that despite previously approving our calls and despite the actions we've taken to accommodate their new protocols, that they are denying our upcoming calls," Juliussen said, according to a copy of the letter posted on Twitter by a passenger.
It was not known which Vietnamese port he was referring to.
Norwegian Cruise Line did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
Vietnamese port management authorities refused to comment and referred calls from Reuters to local port authorities in Vietnam, where telephone calls went unanswered.
By Friday evening, the Norwegian Jade was heading for the port of Laem Chabang in Thailand, according to data on the Marine Traffic ship tracking website. Thailand's Marine Department did not name the Norwegian Jade as a ship that was docking.
The coronavirus has killed more than 1,380 people, almost all in China where the outbreak originated, with one each in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.