Gov. DeSantis: Zaandam Passengers Should Not Be "Dumped" in Florida

Zaandam transits the Panama Canal (ACP)

Published Mar 30, 2020 5:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made clear that he does not want the cruise ship Zaandam to deliver passengers with medical needs to Port Everglades next week. Zaandam has two confirmed coronavirus cases and about 190 ill individuals on board.

"I mean, I think a lot of these [passengers and crew] are foreigners. We’ve done a really good job of working to clear hospital space. I think we have almost 33 percent of the beds are available right now, particularly in South Florida where we have set up field hospitals in case we get a surge," Gov. DeSantis told Fox News. “We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources. So, I’m in contact with the White House on this, I’m in contact with the local county officials in both Broward and Miami-Dade. But yes, we view this as a big, big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in southern Florida right now.”

446 passengers are currently on board Zaandam. The majority of them are foreign nationals, but about 140 are American citizens, including two dozen Florida residents. 

The Zaandam's passenger complement is about a third of what it was when she departed on her cruise. Four individuals died of undisclosed causes between Wednesday and Friday of last week, and about 800 passengers who have not been ill were transferred to the cruise ship Rotterdam in a ship-to-ship operation over the weekend. 

"The primary purpose of the transfer was to balance the workload between the two ships and to provide immediate relief to the service staff on Zaandam, which has fewer crewmembers working at this time.," said Holland America in a statement. "No guests who had any respiratory symptoms in the last ten days were transferred, and no Zaandam crew were transferred to Rotterdam."

Two individuals aboard Zaandam have tested positive for COVID-19, and 73 passengers and 116 crewmembers have reported flu-like symptoms. 

Both vessels received special permission to transit the Panama Canal and are now under way in the Gulf of Mexico, bound for Florida with an expected arrival date of April 7. All other port states on their route have refused permission to disembark.