Port of Mariel Helps Fred. Olsen Passengers Return Home

The crew of the Braemar thank Cuban marine pilot Mario Martínez Lahera (center, wearing PPE) for helping the ship dock at Port of Mariel (Embassy of Cuba in China / Twitter)

Published Mar 19, 2020 6:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Thanks to assistance from the Cuban government and the port of Mariel, the passengers of the cruise ship Braemar have finally been repatriated to the UK, according to operator Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. 

On Tuesday, March 10, one guest and four crew members aboard Braemar received a positive diagnosis for COVID-19. One further guest had an inconclusive test result and was later confirmed to be positive. As a result, Braemar was prohibited from disembarking guests as planned in Barbados on March 12. She spent three days at anchor off The Bahamas, her flag state, taking on supplies and awaiting the results of a search for a port of refuge. The Cuban government ultimately granted permission for guests to return to the UK by air from Havana.

The 682 passengers on board Braemar disembarked at the port of Mariel, Cuba on Wednesday. Those without symptoms boarded three chartered British Airways flights back to Heathrow. These guests received Fred. Olsen care packages as they landed, including long-life milk, teabags, biscuits and fruit to help them to stock their cupboards and to provide refreshments for their onward journeys home.

Those with flu-like symptoms, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their companions were taken aboard a government-chartered flight to MoD Boscombe Down airbase in Wiltshire, England.

 “I would like to extend my sincere thanks on behalf of Fred. Olsen to the Cuban Authorities, the Port of Mariel and the Cuban people for their support. Other countries would not allow Braemar to dock once we had confirmed cases of coronavirus on board," said managing director Peter Deer. "Thanks to their kindness we are now able to get people home. Your support will not be forgotten. From the bottom of my heart, thank you."

The crew of the Braemar are now under way back across the Atlantic to the UK, where the vessel will be laid up along with the Fred. Olsen vessels Balmoral, Boudicca and Black Watch. The line hopes to resume operations in late May.