The crew of a shipping vessel that arrived in Dutch Harbor early Tuesday morning from China will have to remain on the ship as a precaution amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.
The ship, a 709-foot container vessel called the M/V Johannes Maersk, had last stopped in Qingdao, China, on Feb. 4 before it reached the Aleutian Islands, according to Amanda Norcross with the U.S. Coast Guard.
There are 23 crew members on board, and they won’t be getting off the ship, according to Unalaska police chief John Lucking. The ship’s captain verified that none of the crew members were sick with the coronavirus, Lucking said. The virus is an upper respiratory illness that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The crew members are staying aboard the ship in line with a White House proclamation last month that restricts travel into the U.S. in order to help prevent the spread of the virus, according to an email from the Coast Guard. But it is not a quarantine order, Norcross said.
Crew members who have been in China in the last 14 days aboard non-passenger commercial vessels have to “remain aboard the vessel except to conduct specific activities directly related to vessel cargo or provisioning operations,” according to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines.
Usually, crews from this type of vessel would stay on board the ship for the duration of their time in Dutch Harbor, Lucking said. It’s crews from vessels that could be in port for extended periods of time who would get off the ship and come into Unalaska, he said.
Though community members originally had concerns about the ship, Lucking said, he hoped that speaking at the city council meeting the night before about all the precautionary measures being taken would help to quell fears. He said people were used to international ships arriving there.
“It’s a very, very regular occurrence for us to have vessels from China and all over the world,” Lucking said.
He added that machinery will move cargo on and off the ship, and the crew members will not get off the vessel.
The boat is expected to depart Dutch Harbor at 9 a.m. Thursday, according to the Coast Guard.