As preparation for reactivating the Explorer Dream, the Maritime and Port Bureau (MPB) of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has completed the inspection for epidemic prevention and the emergency full participation exercise on the Explorer Dream at Wharves No. 2 and 3 at the east bank of Keelung Port this morning (27th). With Yeh Hsieh-Lung, Director General of the MPB, MOTC as the director of the operation, public health experts along with representatives of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Customs Administration (CA) of the Ministry of Finance (MOF), National Immigration Agency (NIA) of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), Coast Guard Administration (CGA) of the Ocean Affairs Council (OAC), Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) of the Council of Agriculture (COA), Keelung Harbor Police Department, Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC), cruise companies, shipping agencies, and transportation service providers for epidemic prevention measures were all invited to participate. The exercise simulated an emergency response to suspected cases of COVID-19 during a cruise trip. During the exercise, public health experts and the relevant departments of the CDC carefully examined each stage of the operating procedures. The simulation was realistic and successful; therefore, the Explorer Dream is set to be reactivated in the evening of December 31 for the New Year’s Day voyage as scheduled, so that people may go on cruise trips safely without traveling abroad.
According to the MPB, guidelines for the reactivation and a contingency plan, which were approved by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on December 23, were announced before the exercise commenced. It simulated carrying 65 passengers and 339 seafarers; on the voyage to Hualien from Keelung Port, two passengers reported feeling ill to the medic at the infirmary by telephone, the two passengers were later considered as patients under investigation (PUI). The exercise included: After contacting the infirmary on the ship with the room telephone, the two PUI were transferred to isolation rooms by medics wearing protection gear. Then, the medic collected samples and conducted primary testing, and after 20 minutes, the testing results of the VitaPCR Instrument were suspected to be positive. The captain was immediately informed. Subsequently, the captain broadcasted and requested all passengers and seafarers to return to their rooms immediately after initiating the emergency contingency plan. The cruise ship stopped its voyage and returned to Keelung Port immediately. At the same time, the disease control committee of the ship conducted an emergency meeting to confirm the status of each department and started tracking the footprints of the two PUI. After berthing, the two PUI were escorted off the ship to ambulances for hospitalization. Then, the rest of the passengers were transported to quarantine hotels after receiving PCR tests at the deck in an orderly fashion. All members of the crew understood their duties, and overall, the exercise went smoothly.
Furthermore, the MPB added that public health experts and the CDC made suggestions for the emergency exercise and the measures for epidemic prevention conducted on the ship this morning. The suggestions can be classified into the implementation of measures for epidemic prevention at all times and the contingent responses when discovering confirmed cases. For example, reinforcing education and training for the crew on COVID-19 knowledge and prevention, especially for new employees of the cruise and staff who often receive passengers; conduct emergency drills on the ship every month, and implement deployment of seafarers and their respective duties in the emergency contingency plan. The MPB will send agents to supervise these measures; in addition, business hours of the amusement center and casino should be adjusted accordingly, and the frequency of sanitization should also be increased. If suspected cases were discovered on the ship, the whereabouts of those in close contact with the suspected cases must be tracked using closed-circuit television (CCTV); staff of the room service department should offer surgical masks to all passengers on board while delivering meals. Passengers should be reassured, the wait time of PCR testing should be reduced, and the traffic flow when disembarking should be controlled. As soon as there is a confirmed case, the cruise company must inform the MPB. The MPB will also inform the Customs, Immigration, Quarantine, and Security (CIQS) units and relevant departments to form a crisis intervention team. Furthermore, the cruise company has been advised to adjust its operation human resources during the initial reactivation phase and to operate its business in a stable manner to rebuild people’s confidence in cruises. We sincerely hope that the domestic cruise industry resumes operations smoothly.
Contact person: Tu, Wen-Yun, Section Chief, Maritime Affairs Division
Contact number: +886-2-8978020