Oman allows port call by cruise ship on ‘humanitarian’ grounds

MUSCAT, MAR 21 – In a gesture labelled as “humane” by the local shipping community, a passenger cruise liner was given permission to dock at Port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat on Thursday for bunker fuel and essential provisions. The Italian-flagged AIDAblu — a luxury liner operated by German cruise line AIDA Cruises —made a brief stopover in Muscat at the weekend. It was the first port call by a cruise ship at an Omani port since March 15, when a month-long ban on port visits came into force in line with precautions adopted by the Sultanate to keep the coronavirus (COVID-19) at bay.
During the stopover, however, lasting several hours, none of the passengers and crew disembarked in keeping with the conditions stipulated by Marafi — the state-owned operator of Port Sultan Qaboos — for allowing AIDAblu’s unscheduled port visit.
Khimji Ramdas Shipping LLC, shipping agents for AIDA Cruises in the Sultanate, welcomed Marafi’s “humanitarian gesture”. “We are indeed grateful to Marafi, the Ministry of Tourism, and other competent authorities for allowing the port call as a gesture of goodwill to vessels requiring assistance,” said Bhupesh Choudhary, Chief Operating Officer.
“In addition to bunker fuel, AIDAblu also took delivery of foodstuff shipped in earlier by AIDA Cruises ahead of its voyage through this region. At this crucial time, Khimji Ramdas is committed to facilitating the movement of goods and services in the interest of the nation, while taking the requisite precautions and safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19,” Choudhary further remarked.
It is understood that international cruise ships are increasingly dependent on Omani ports for refuelling and replenishment stops after voyages through the Indian Ocean into the Arabian Sea. With most ports on India’s west coast, as well as Sri Lanka, now off-limits to cruise ships, cruise liners have little choice but to turn to Omani ports for bunker and other essential supplies — even more so, because the UAE has also banned all cruise ships to its ports.
According to shipping sources, the Port of Salalah no longer permits cruise ships to call at the port in keeping with the measures announced by the Supreme Committee tasked with managing Oman’s response to the pandemic.
It however does permit bunkering and provisioning of cruise ships at anchorage.