Coronavirus: Passengers begin disembarking from Costa Fortuna ship at Marina Bay Cruise Centre

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - According to  the ship's itinerary, it left Singapore two weeks ago and travelled towards Koh Samui and Laem Chabang in Thailand, before heading to Sihanoukville in Cambodia.

 An Italian cruise ship turned away by Malaysian and Thai ports has docked in Singapore.

The Costa Fortuna docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre at about 7.35am on Tuesday (March 10), earlier than the scheduled timing of 9am.

When The Straits Times arrived at about 7am, there was already a pool of media personnel waiting outside the cruise centre for the ship’s arrival.

The arrival and departure halls were closed to the public. ST understands that Costa Fortuna is the only cruise ship docking on Tuesday.

Security officers at the entrance of the cruise centre prevented reporters from entering the compound.

The ship docked at around 7.35am, but there was little activity except workers walking in and out of the ship via a link bridge to the terminal. Some passengers could be seen looking out of their balconies as the ship docked.

ST observed that the first group of passengers left the ship at about 8.40am. They were then seen at the customs area about 15 minutes later.

The first group of passengers that left the terminal - about 20 people made up of foreigners and many middle-aged - were then escorted by officials to a waiting bus, which had the label “Orange K SQ978” on it. 

A few of the passengers leaving told ST that they were from Germany, with subsequent buses heading to Carlton Hotel and Crowne Plaza Changi Airport

Doctors licensed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) will conduct enhanced, one-on-one checks on passengers with recent travel history to northern Italy in the last 14 days.

Those who exhibit fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness will be sent directly to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, while those without symptoms will be taken directly to the airport for their onward flights.

In a joint statement on Monday night, MOH, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) also said that all remaining passengers will undergo temperature screening, too, as a precautionary measure.

Those with fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness will be required to undergo a swab test.

"Passengers who are identified for Covid-19 swab testing but refuse to do so will not be allowed entry into Singapore," the agencies said.

They added that the ship had not picked up any passengers since it left Singapore last week on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, MPA and STB said the ship had declared that none of its passengers currently on board was having a fever or had other symptoms of respiratory illness.

Costa Cruises, which operates the Costa Fortuna, told ST that all passengers on board are healthy and not showing any symptoms of the coronavirus.

MOH, MPA and STB said that over the past two weeks, Singapore has handled more than 10 scheduled calls by cruise ships and disembarked over 5,000 passengers.

Singapore is a home port for the Costa Fortuna, and has received the ship 16 times since last December, the agencies said.

"Like all other cruise ships departing from Singapore's cruise terminals, Costa Fortuna was disinfected prior to its departure from Singapore," they added.

"All its passengers also completed pre-embarkation checks based on prevailing policies for travel history and temperature screening as required by the cruise line and the terminal operator prior to boarding."

According to ship trackers, Costa Fortuna had been making steady progress in the direction of Singapore since Sunday. By 7am on Monday, it was in the waters near Tuas but sailing in international waters.

According to  the ship's itinerary, it left Singapore two weeks ago and travelled towards Koh Samui and Laem Chabang in Thailand, before heading to Sihanoukville in Cambodia.

It returned to Singapore again last Tuesday, before sailing westwards and reaching Langkawi in Malaysia last Thursday.

Following that, it was scheduled to stop at Phuket, Penang and Port Klang, but was refused entry by both Thailand and Malaysia.

The Thai authorities had imposed restrictions "on Italians that have transited in Italy in the last 14 days", Costa Cruises said on Twitter.

Malaysia has issued a blanket ban on all cruise ships because of the increasing Covid-19 cases. The Costa Fortuna is carrying about 60 Italians, according to Malaysian officials.

Singapore is listed among the ship's home ports, which refers to a port where the vessel is based.

Costa Cruises also said on Monday that it will cancel the next cruise of Costa Fortuna, due to depart on Tuesday from Singapore.

It said: "The decision was deemed necessary on the basis of the restrictive measures currently applied by ports included in the ship's itinerary."