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American Queen Steamboat Co., Victory ready to house military for coronavirus quarantine

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Six river and coastal vessels 'readily available and on standby' to help US coronavirus efforts. At left, AQSC's American Duchess and, right, Victory Cruise Lines' Victory II

For military personnel quarantine

The sister companies' coastal ships and river vessels would house US military personnel that are under quarantine, as they have either arrived from a foreign country or will be departing shortly for a foreign country.

Possible deployment cities

Cities where the AQSC and Victory Cruise Lines vessels could potentially be stationed include Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis, New Orleans, Norfolk and Miami.

Six vessels 'readily available'

'AQSC and VCL would be pleased to assist the federal government during this crisis, and our six vessels are readily available and on standby,' the company told Seatrade Cruise News.

As earlier reported, AQSC suspended cruise operations, with service planned to restart April 11. 

High coronavirus attack rate on cruise ships likely due to many asymptomatic people: CDC

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Among 3,711 Diamond Princess passengers and crew, 712 (19.2%) had positive test results. Of these, 331 (46.5%) were asymptomatic at the time of testing, CDC said

CDC said available statistical models of the Diamond Princess outbreak suggest that 17.9% of infected persons never developed symptoms.

Tracing the spread

In an analysis of the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cases, the CDC traced how the infection spread, and said SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on Diamond Princess before disinfection procedures were conducted.

RNA, short for ribonucleic acid, is material that carries the genetic information of many viruses. It can indicate if the virus was present but does not indicate the virus was still alive

'Although these data cannot be used to determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces, further study of fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 aboard cruise ships is warranted,' CDC said. 'Fomite' refers to objects that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in their transmission.

Three cruises, more than 800 cases, 10 deaths

According to CDC, COVID-19 outbreaks associated with three cruise ship voyages resulted in more than 800 laboratory-confirmed cases among passengers and crew, including 10 deaths, with transmission occurring across multiple voyages of several ships.

To recap, during Feb. 7-23, the largest cluster of cases outside mainland China occurred on Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Yokohama Feb. 3. On March 6, cases were identified on Grand Princess off the coast of California; that ship was subsequently quarantined. By March 17, confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been associated with at least 25 additional cruise ship voyages.

On Feb. 21, CDC recommended avoiding travel on cruise ships in Southeast Asia; on March 8, this was broadened to include deferring all cruise ship travel worldwide for those with underlying health conditions and for people 65 and older. On March 13, Cruise Lines International Association announced a 30-day voluntary suspension of cruise operations in the United States. CDC issued a level 3 travel warning on March 17, recommending that all cruise travel be deferred worldwide.

Transmissions

On Diamond Princess, transmission largely occurred among passengers before quarantine was implemented, whereas crew infections peaked after quarantine. On Grand Princess, crew were likely infected on a first voyage and then transmitted the virus to passengers on a second voyage, CDC said.

Diamond Princess

On Jan. 20, Diamond Princess departed Yokohama, carrying approximately 3,700 passengers and crew. Five days later, a symptomatic passenger left the ship in Hong Kong, where he tested positive. On Feb. 3, the ship returned to Japan, after making six stops in three countries. Japanese authorities were notified of the COVID-19 diagnosis in the passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong, and the ship was quarantined. Information about social distancing and monitoring of symptoms was communicated to passengers.

On Feb. 5, passengers were quarantined in their cabins; crew continued to work and, therefore, could not be isolated. As Japanese health officials subsequently acknowledged, this was a mistake in their direction of the quarantine. 

Ultimately, among 3,711 Diamond Princess passengers and crew, 712 (19.2%) had positive test results. Of these, 331 (46.5%) were asymptomatic at the time of testing. Among 381 symptomatic patients, 37 (9.7%) required intensive care, and nine (1.3%) died. Infections also occurred among three Japanese responders, including one nurse, one quarantine officer and one administrative officer. As of March 13, among 428 US passengers and crew, 107 (25%) had positive test results. Eleven US passengers remain hospitalized in Japan (their median age is 75), including seven in serious condition.

Grand Princess

During Feb. 11-21, Grand Princess sailed round-trip from San Francisco, making four stops in Mexico. Most of the 1,111 crew and 68 passengers from this cruise remained on board for a second voyage that departed San Francisco on Feb. 21, with a planned return on March 7.

On March 4, a clinician in California reported two patients with COVID-19 symptoms who had traveled on the first voyage, one with positive results. CDC notified the cruise line, which began canceling group activities. More than 20 additional cases among persons who did not travel on the second cruise were identified from the first cruise, the majority in California. One death has been reported.

On March 5, a response team was transported by helicopter to the ship to collect specimens from 45 passengers and crew with respiratory symptoms; 21 (46.7%), including two passengers and 19 crew, tested positive. Passengers and symptomatic crew were asked to self-quarantine in their cabins, and room service replaced public dining until disembarkation. Following docking in Oakland, California, on March 8, passengers and crew were transferred to land-based sites for a 14-day quarantine period or isolation.

During land-based quarantine in the United States, all persons were offered testing. As of March 21, of 469 people with available test results, 78 (16.6%) were positive.

The full CDC report is here.

Landry & King facilitating cruise ship charters for coronavirus relief

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'Our team is perfectly suited to respond in disasters — they are committed and passionate about helping others and will work tirelessly to find ship-based solutions for those in need,' Joyce Landry said

Working with several countries

The Miami-based company is currently working with several nations outside the US that are at capacity with their hospital beds and seeking this type of solution, according to CEO Joyce Landry.

For any missions, the ships will be thoroughly disinfected, reconfigured as needed and fully stocked with food, medical equipment and hospital supplies. They also can provide housing for doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals. These workers would be accommodated in different decks from patients, with separate air ventilation systems monitored on each deck to ensure safety.

Many cruise ships are currently sitting idle across the globe and lines are eager to provide relief services during this pandemic, Landry said. Her company has researched where the ships are, which are available and what lines are willing to offer them. That means Landry & Kling can quickly access vessels, at cost, on behalf of governments, federal agencies, heath organizations and private enterprises.

Expertise in disaster relief charters

In business since 1982, the company has ample experience in this type of undertaking, having organized ship charters for urgent relief situations including evacuation, emergency services, restoration and rebuilding. Landry & Kling is an approved vendor with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency and has assisted with numerous government contracts, working directly with FEMA and through government contractors.

Consultation service charges waived

Landry said her company will waive its customary service charges for logistics and consultation during this unprecedented time.

'Our team is perfectly suited to respond in disasters — they are committed and passionate about helping others and will work tirelessly to find ship-based solutions for those in need,' she added.

Services include handling requests for information and proposals, contract negotiation including capability with multiple currencies through global banking relationships, on-site support and identification of potential additional costs related to government, state and/or local taxation and fees.

Carnival Victory-to-Radiance work suspended at Navantia

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The 2000-built Carnival Victory was going to be transformed in a $200m docking and renamed Carnival Radiance

As the COVID-19 situation continues to escalate, Carnival Cruise Line suspended work on this project at Navantia in Cadiz, Spain, where the drydock was under way.

No yard workers

Carnival said travel restrictions make it impossible to secure workers at this time.

Earlier this month the 2000-built ship had begun what was to be a 38-day, bow-to-stern transformation. The $200m project was going to add all of the line’s food, beverage and entertainment innovations. These include Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse created by Food Network star Guy Fieri, Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant, Bonsai Sushi, Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub and the first Big Chicken restaurant at sea created by Carnival’s Chief Fun Officer Shaquille O’Neal.

Other spaces to be transformed were to include the water park, youth facilities, retail shops, Cloud 9 Spa and a new Liquid Lounge, home to the high-tech Playlist Productions shows.

Four Europe sailings and trans-Atlantic crossing canceled

After the docking, in late April Carnival Radiance was to operate four European sailings, followed by a trans-Atlantic crossing. Those cruises have been canceled.

Renaming festivities had been planned in New York City on June 24.

RCL Corp. boosts liquidity with $2.2bn term loan

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Optional 364-day extension

The company has the option of extending the facility for an additional 364 days.  

RCL has borrowed the full amount available under the term loan to further bolster its liquidity.

More than $3.6bn of liquidity

Including this new financing, the company has more than $3.6bn of liquidity comprised of cash deposits and its existing undrawn revolving credit facilities, net of outstanding commercial paper. In addition, RCL has committed financing for all of its new ships on order.

'This is a period of unprecedented disruption for the cruise industry,' EVP/CFO Jason Liberty said. 'We continue to take decisive actions to protect the company's financial and liquidity positions as they enable us to keep focused on our guests, our crew and our long-term plans.'

Joint lead arrangers and book runners

Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Bank of America, BNP Paribas and Goldman Sachs acted as joint lead arrangers and book runners on the secured term loan facility. Morgan Stanley is acting as an administrative agent and collateral agent. Perella Weinberg Partners LP served as financial advisor and Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP as legal advisor to the company.

Analyst reaction

William Blair lowered projected full-year constant-currency net yield for RCL to down 8%, resulting in earnings per share of $1.54. 

Analyst Sharon Zackfia noted the stock is down more than 80% year-to-date on concerns about the industry’s viability in the wake of the coronavirus impact. 

'Based on our revised estimates, Royal should have adequate liquidity for 2020,' Zackfia said. 'While we expect consumers will be generally eager to return to normalcy once coronavirus concerns abate, we believe the cruise industry is likely to have a much slower recovery given the amount of negative media coverage around coronavirus outbreaks and ships without ports, and maintain our market perform (hold) rating.'

 

March 23 updates: Costa complexity, flu-like symptoms on Zaandam, Coral can't dock in South America, NCL's last ship comes in and more

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Forty-two people have reported flu-like symptoms on Zaandam, which has been unable to disembark in South America. The ship is heading north on the Pacific Coast with the intent to end at Fort Lauderdale

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Silver Shadow Americans repatriated

During today's White House coronavirus task force briefing, President Donald Trump said 103 American citizens who'd been stranded in Brazil for 10 days after a cruise were brought home overnight. News reports identified the ship as Silver Shadow, though Silversea Cruises declined to confirm this. 

Trump thanked Brazil and his own administration, in cooperation with Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and the private sector, for coordinating the travelers' safe return.

Costa Luminosa complexity

The disembarkation of Costa Luminosa in Savona was wrapping up Monday night with the remaining 337 passengers leaving. All crew are to be landed Tuesday, apart from 100 who are asymptomatic and essential to the ship's operation.

Some 189 non-European passengers and 180 crew, symptomatic and otherwise, will be transferred to shoreside lodging managed by managed by Costa Cruises in Lazio and Tuscany. Some 550 crew are to be flown home on two charter flights Tuesday.

Costa Luminosa reached Savona Friday with around 80 people, including 30 passengers and 50 crew, with flu-like symptoms or coronavirus. Over the weekend, the condition of seven passengers worsened and they were hospitalized in Savona. They include two Dutch citizens, one Israeli, one Australian, two Argentines and one Mauritian.

If things go as planned, within 72 hours of the ship's arrival, more than 1,400 people will have been transferred in a very complex operation coordinated by the national and Ligurian civil protection and other agencies. By Tuesday, Costa Luminosa is to move to another quay.

Costa Pacifica now in Civitavecchia

During Costa Pacifica's Saturday-Sunday stopover in Genoa, 1,454 passengers of many nationalities were disembarked out of a total of 2,359 passengers. Despite the difficult context due to travel restrictions imposed by countries in Europe and around the world, transfers and flights home were secured.

To facilitate the repatriation of the 905 remaining passengers, the ship left Genoa Sunday evening and is now at Civitavecchia, chosen for its proximity to the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport Fiumicino (Rome), where disembarkation will continue. According to Costa, the health status on board is normal.

Flu-like symptoms on Zaandam

Thirteen passengers and 29 crew aboard Zaandam reported to the ship’s medical center with influenza-like symptoms Sunday morning. Holland America Line asked all passengers to remain in their staterooms until it has more information. Those who are ill have been isolated and their close contacts are in quarantine.

Public areas are closed and meals are being delivered by room service. Crew not required for the safe operation of the ship are quarantined. There are 1,243 passengers and 586 crew on board.

Zaandam left Buenos Aires March 7 and with HAL's subsequent global suspension of service, the line was planning to disembark in Punta Arenas, Chile, but was not permitted to do so. No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas.

The intention is to proceed to Fort Lauderdale for arrival on March 30, however HAL is still working to secure a reservation to transit the Panama Canal. Alternative options are being developed.

Coral Princess heading to Fort Lauderdale

Coral Princess has also faced difficulty disembarking in South America. The ship made a service call at Montevideo, Uruguay, Saturday to take on supplies and fuel. No one was allowed ashore. Coral Princess is now sailing directly to Fort Lauderdale with arrival expected in about 14 days.

Princess Cruises said Coral Princess 'abruptly' departed Buenos Aires late on March 19, before all guests were disembarked. Argentine President Alberto Fernandez issued a decree at 8 p.m., effective at midnight, that would have required the ship to remain in port for an indeterminate period, with no one allowed to disembark during that time. So the decision was made to leave immediately.

There are 1,024 passengers on board.

Norwegian Jewel in Honolulu, last NCL ship carrying passengers

Norwegian Jewel arrived in Honolulu on Sunday and charter flights have been arranged for Monday and Tuesday to fly passengers home to Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Vancouver, BC; and Frankfurt.

This was the last vessel in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet with guests aboard at sea. All its ships will soon be berthed in ports around the world until the temporary sailing suspension is lifted.

Hawaii's exception due to necessary propulsion repairs

Hawaii, which has not been permitting cruise ships to disembark, said Norwegian Jewel was allowed because it is experiencing propulsion problems that require immediate repairs. These must be made without passengers on board, which prompted the Department of Transportation to make this exception.

Norwegian Jewel's 23-day ‘Australia and French Polynesia’ cruise, which departed Sydney on February 28, was modified due to multiple port closures. She was to have sailed to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa and French Polynesia, completing the voyage in Papeete last Friday.

According to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, 16 cruise ships have canceled visits during Cruise Lines International Association's 30-day suspension of service from/to US ports.

Wells Fargo downgrades CCL

Wells Fargo Securities downgraded Carnival Corp. shares to 'underweight' (sell) from 'overweight' (buy), with a $6 price target, down from $55.

The brokerage expects Carnival will soon need to issue $4bn to $5bn of equity. 'While somewhat expected, this will be meaningfully dilutive to existing shareholders,' analyst Tim Conder said in a note.

Conder expects a post-COVID-19 industry recovery will be 'elongated, producing the need for additional net financing in 2021 despite current reductions in capex, operating expenses and dividend elimination.' 

'We can't let the cruise lines go out of business': Trump

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Speaking on Sunday, Donald Trump said cruise lines provide 'massive numbers of jobs'

'Look at the cruise lines. That's a big business,' Trump said during Sunday's White House coronavirus task force briefing. He noted the lines had been doing very well and building many ships until just before the pandemic.

'Massive numbers of jobs'

'We can't let the cruise lines go out of business — that will be massive numbers of jobs for our country,' Trump said.

'We have to take care of our workers,' he added.

Speaking about business in general, Trump said: 'We have to save the companies ... We have to make sure the companies are whole.' If businesses go under, he indicated, that will seriously impact economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis. 'We want to be sure these companies are ready to charge forward,' he said.

'May be using cruise ships' in New York

When discussing New York, one of the places hardest hit, Trump also said some cruise ships may be used there for medical support, adding that a good docking system is available. 

Later, mentioning drugs being supplied to the state that could make 'a whole different game,' Trump added he hoped the cruise ships wouldn't be needed.

Half of past-year US travelers plan trips in next six months: Omnitrak

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Even so, among Americans who have traveled at least once in the past 12 months, 49% intend to travel between March and the end of August, while 51% do not have current travel plans during that period. More than a quarter, or 29%, have canceled leisure travel and 12% have canceled business travel since January. However, for the period from March to August, 8% have canceled leisure trips and 6% have canceled business trips because of the pandemic.

The polling was conducted March 10-12, just as cruise lines were announcing suspended operations. (Viking came first on March 11, followed by a cascade of other operators in subsequent days.)

Omnitrak, a strategic research and branding firm that specializes in travel data, surveyed 2,505 adults (18 and over) who have traveled at least once in the past year.

Resilience after earlier events

COVID-19 concerns have altered travel decisions unlike any other recent global event. During prior disease outbreaks, natural disasters and world events, including post-9/11, SARS, Ebola and plane crashes, travelers remained resilient.

During SARS and Ebola outbreaks, 83% of US travelers did not change their plans. Previously, natural disasters/extreme weather had the greatest impact on travelers, with 33% altering plans and 67% proceeding unchanged.

Advice from national health officials/scientists is key

The top factor in US travel decisions is advice from national health officials and scientists. National political leaders rank significantly lower. Nearly six in 10, or 59%, of travelers said travel advice from national health officials and scientists, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the most important factor in deciding whether to cancel a trip.

Other key factors: The number of COVID-19 cases reported at the traveler’s destination (57%), travel advice from a personal doctor (50%) and travel advice from a state health official (49%). An airline’s reputation for upholding health and safety standards came in at 35%.

Travel advice from a state governor was on par with information from national news media, at 31%. Travel advice from national political leaders ranked relatively low, at 29%, on par with information from local news media.

Dissatisfaction with timeliness/reliability of information

US travelers were not very satisfied with the timeliness or reliability of COVID-19 information currently available to them. Improving both promptness and reliability of information can play a key role in strengthening traveler confidence as the situation evolves.

On a scale of 1 (not at all satisfied) to 10 (extremely satisfied), travelers rated the timeliness of pandemic information at a mean of 6.7 and reliability at a mean of 6.5.

'In my 30-plus years of leading Omnitrak, COVID-19 is the most significant global travel disruption the industry has ever experienced,' said Patricia M. Loui, chairperson and CEO. 'As the pandemic will clearly affect US travel sentiment for some time to come, it’s important that the travel industry help all Americans to make sound decisions based on current science-based public health information.'

$1.1 trillion US travel industry

The $1.1 trillion US travel industry is vital to the economy, accounting for one of every 10 US jobs, according to the nonprofit US Travel Association.

Chris Kam, Omnitrak’s president and COO, noted that trustworthy public-health information would be key not just during the COVID-19 outbreak but in supporting travelers’ confidence as the industry works toward recovery in the future.

'While we are in uncharted territory with the current pandemic, we do know that US travelers have historically proven to be resilient in the face of natural disasters, 9/11, epidemics, terrorism and other major disruptions,' Kim said. 'Accurate, timely information is one of the most important factors in helping travelers make the best choices for their business, leisure and family travel.'

More cruise ships bring coronavirus-infected passengers to Sydney

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Voyager of the Seas is one of four ships arriving in Sydney with coronavirus-infected passengers

This follows the discovery reported here that passengers and a crew member had coronavirus when Ruby Princess docked in Sydney on March 19 after a cruise to New Zealand. 

Ovation of the Seas

7News said a man who had travelled from Canada before joining Ovation of the Seas in Sydney on March 11 had contracted the virus. The ship returned to Sydney on March 18.

Voyager of the Seas

A woman in her 20s who departed Sydney on February 25 in Voyager of the Seas, which returned on March 7 after visiting the South Pacific and New Zealand, was confirmed to have the virus.

NSW Health said the 14-day self-isolation period has passed for these passengers, but they should be alert for flu-like symptoms.

A man from South Australia who left Sydney for a South Pacific cruise on March 7 aboard Voyager of the Seas, which returned on March 18, had the virus.

NSW Health is alerting passengers he was infectious while on board and that they are considered ‘a close contact’ and must self-isolate until April 1. 

Celebrity Solstice

7News said another man with coronavirus joined Celebrity Solstice in Auckland on March 10. Solstice docked in Sydney on Friday.

March 21 updates: Ponant gets people home, Costa tests Liguria, Fiji date, Sailors' Society goes virtual

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Having ended its Antarctica season, L'Austral was not permitted to dock at Montevideo so the ship is heading to Rio de Janeiro to disembark

Ponant repatriations

After repatriating a total of 1,000 passengers from Le Lyrial in Cape Town, Le Láperouse in Australia, Le Bougainville in the Seychelles and Le Champlain in Martinique, Ponant is arranging flights for 900 remaining passengers on four other vessels, according to Hervé Bellaiche, chief sales and marketing officer and board member.

Le Dumont d'Urville docked today in Fort-de-France, Martinique, where passengers were taken by secured motor coaches to the airport. Le Soléal is in compulsory quarantine in Papeete, Tahiti, awaiting disembarkation March 24.

L'Austral and Le Boréal, ending their Antarctica season and not allowed to dock at Montevideo, Uruguay, or at Valparaíso, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina, respectively, are heading to Rio de Janeiro. L'Austral is to arrive March 22 and Le Boréal around March 26. Among the 900 passengers, 400 are French; 300 are from Belgium, Switzerland and other European countries; and 200 are Americans and Australians.

Ponant said there have been no suspected cases of coronavirus on any of its ships.

Luminosa in Savona but Liguria can't handle more hospital cases

Costa Luminosa arrived at Savona Saturday morning from Marseille, where 721 passengers — mainly French, German, Austrian, American and Canadian — were disembarked. (The New York Times published a harrowing account of the Americans' charter flight home.) The ship came to Savona Palacrociere with 718 passengers and around 800 crew. Eighty-four people with flu-like symptoms were isolated in their rooms.

Three ambulances removed some people from the ship. In late afternoon, disembarkation began with priority for Ligurians and those living in central and northern Italy, while central-south residents were to leave Sunday morning, according to Liguria Gov. Giovanni Toti.

Passengers and crew with flu-like symptoms or positive tests for coronavirus will remain on board, and the ship will be moved to another place where there is greater availability of hospital beds, or people will be taken to a shoreside quarantine facility.

Toti reiterated Liguria cannot handle these cases by itself: 'Our region is fourth in Italy for contagions. We try to keep up and so far we have not had to choose who to treat and who not. This ship would risk being the drop that overflows the vase because we do not have enough beds for intensive care or medium intensive care to also handle passengers who need hospitalization.'

Costa Pacifica in Genoa

Meanwhile, Costa Pacifica arrived in Genoa, also having come from Marseille. Disembarkation began in the afternoon, starting with Russians, taken by buses to Milan Malpensa airport. Then the approximately 960 Argentines were to be transferred to Genoa airport, to three flights. Luggage was being transferred separately to load directly onto the aircraft. Procedures were strict, with all vehicles sanitized.

The disembarkation of Italians and other nationalities was to follow.

Blue Lagoon halts until June

Due to the suspension of commercial flights into and out of Fiji, Blue Lagoon Cruises will now suspend all operations until May 31. The company anticipates it will resume operations on June 1.

New Orleans — no rollin' on the river

As at all other US ports, ocean cruise operations were suspended by lines, effective one week ago, at the Port of New Orleans. River cruises have also temporarily stopped.

Sailors' Society goes virtual

Sailors’ Society is offering virtual chaplaincy to seafarers. The charity, which operates in 90 ports around the world including Southampton, Tilbury, Invergordon and Greenock, paused port activities for an initial period of two weeks.

Chaplains are available online and Sailors’ Society is sharing mental health advice for seafarers and setting up a special Facebook group for those concerned about the impact of the virus on their health and livelihoods. Information is here