The 2019-2020 cruise season for the Panama Canal, forecast to be the best in years, with a 10% increase in the number of transits has seen a raft of cancelations caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the near-collapse of the cruise industry.
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) received 35 cruise cancellations that were to transit during February and in the first days of April.
Among the cancellations are those of the shipping companies Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line, whose ships Zuiderdam and Norwegian Star, were to transit in March.
Of the 258 cruises expected for the 2019 season, 209 managed to pass through the Canal, before the coronavirus crisis.
For the current season, which started in October 2019, about 29 were classified in the neo-Panamax category, such as the Norwegian Bliss ship, the largest of its kind to travel the interoceanic route, with capacity for 5,000 passengers, in addition to Norwegian Joy, which can carry 3,883 passengers.
Caribbean Princess, Emerald Princess, Ventura, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory, and Disney Wonder are other Neopanamax cruises that were enrolled in the cruise season.
The interest of cruise lines to include transits through the Canal in their itinerary has grown in recent years and was expected to increase more with the completion of the once the cruise terminal that is being built on Perico Island, in the Amador Causeway.
International media have reported that Holland America's cruise ship Zaandam, which carries 1,243 passengers and 586 crew, is awaiting authorization from the Canal administration to carry out an emergency transit
The ship which set sail from Argentina on March 7, has reported that at least 13 passengers and 29 crew have reported symptoms of influenza, triggering the ship's emergency protocol ordering that all persons remain in their cabins. .
The vessel requested permission from the Chilean authorities to disembark passengers in the port of Punta Arenas, but the request was rejected, although it was allowed to pick up provisions in Valparaíso. The shipping company has confirmed that it does not have tests on the ship to detect whether the cases correspond to the Covid-19 strain.
The shipping company has reported that it is awaiting authorization from the Panama Canal to make the transit and arrive on March 30 in Miami, United States.
If not authorized, the company said it would take other actions, but did not detail what they would be.
According to the protocol implemented by the ACP, if a case of coronavirus were detected, the vessel would be quarantined and transit by the waterway would not be allowed.
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