In a news release late Sunday night, the prime minister said “the last correspondence between RCCL and the Jamaican Government was a request from RCCL made on May 15, 2020 for a conference call with relevant agencies to work out details of the re-entry. Up to this point, no date for arrival was agreed and no approval was given. I indicated in Parliament last Tuesday, when asked by the Opposition Spokesman on National Security, that we were in ongoing negotiations regarding the return of cruise ship workers, but those discussions were not yet finalized.
"To this point, the ministers assigned to deal with the re-entry of Jamaican cruise ship workers have not had any final request or even notice from RCCL of the current proposed date they intend to enter Jamaican territorial waters or seek to dock in our ports. I have been informed by the Port Authority that they have given no approvals to the ship, the prime minister’s statement said.
However, according to the Peoples National Party, the crew members are aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise liner Adventure of the Seas, which is now en route to Jamaica.
PNP Chairman Fitz Jackson told a media briefing on Sunday, that some stranded ship workers and their families reached out to the party for help.
Jackson called on the Government to immediately put arrangements in place to ensure that the Jamaicans are allowed to disembark upon fulfilling health protocols.
“Even at this late stage, there are safe and secure arrangements that can be implemented,” said Jackson, who is also the Opposition spokesman on national security.
“We demand that our fellow Jamaicans now in distress and uncertainty be allowed to join their families and loved ones here in Jamaica,” he added.
Meanwhile, Opposition spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lisa Hanna, questioned whether proper logistics are in place to receive the nationals.
She underscored that it was the Government’s responsibility to ensure the safe repatriation of those aboard.
"In this time, we're not seeing certain people as a part of this. If you'll remember when the earthquake happened in Haiti, the Jamaican army was sent to Haiti to help the Haitian Government deal with logistics in that crisis. Why hasn't the army been called out now? Who is managing the protocols here? These are questions the Jamaican people really need to ask. Where's the Red Cross? Where's the Social Development Commission?” Hanna questioned.
Hanna demanded answers on whether the incoming ship has been granted permission to sail into Jamaican waters because “we are hearing that they have not been given permission just yet”.
“It almost appears as if the Government, or this particular Government, with our nationals, that's a pattern is emerging because somehow when our nationals are overseas, they seem to be forgotten about; we have to start caring for our people better than this,” Hanna insisted.
The government however says it has taken note of postings on social media and press statements from the Opposition regarding the cruise ship coming to Jamaica by a particular date.
If it is true that the ship intends to sail into Jamaican waters without formal approval or even courtesy of notice, while discussions are still ongoing, then this would represent a serious departure from good maritime practices, and a serious breach of good faith and the cooperative nature of the dialogue we have been having on this matter.
Indeed this would not be in the spirit of the good relations Jamaica has had with RCCL over the years.
We note a previous instance on May 1, 2020 where a purported employee of RCCL was reported in the media claiming that the Government of Jamaica had requested the cruise ship to pay a certain amount for the quarantining of Jamaican ship workers to be repatriated. No such request was ever made and it was subsequently denied by RCCL.
The prime minister’s statement concluded by saying that “while it was always the intention of the Government to accept the ship, this can only be done when we have mobilized the resources to do so. We have seen the negative outcome and discomfort caused to the last cohort of repatriated Jamaicans, when we make well intentioned decisions without sufficient resources in place to properly execute.”
“We expect to continue our discussions with RCCL to finalize the re-entry process, and we also expect to demobilize other quarantine operations later this week that would release resources to assist in managing the vessel and providing our Jamaicans with a safe and convenient re-entry experience, as quickly as possible,” Holness informed.
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