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Sept 18, 2020. Volume 51, Number 38


The sailing vessel Kwai left Hawaii, September 3 headed for the Marshall Islands to take up a four-month charter with the Marshall Islands Shipping Corporation to service the outer islands. The 120’ foot cargo sailing ship is scheduled to arrive Majuro September 17 or 18, depending on the wind conditions. This will allow it to meet the 14-day RMI Covid-19 quarantine rules.

When it arrives, the KWAI is likely to bring back memories of the medical vessel Tole Mour that sailed in the Marshall Islands from the late 1980s through the 1990s bringing health teams to numerous outer islands.

There are 10 crew and one passenger on board, all of whom tested negative for Coid-19 prior to departing Hawaii.

The results, according to the ship crew, have been provided to the Ministry of Health and Human Services.

Captain Brad Ives wrote in his blog on “Voyage number V55 began on the second of September, 2020. Fifty-five voyages in 15 years and now KWAI is headed to new territory: The Republic of Marshall Islands.

“This old ship will be as far west as she has ever been in her 70 years of existence. A four-month time charter to service the Outer Islands from Majuro is a sweet contract in this time of COVID-19 shutdowns. Not only have we been shut out of our regular ports in Kiribati and the Cook Islands, we get to work in one of the few nations on the planet with no Covid cases to date.”

The 10 crew, some of whom are I-Kiribati, and one passenger followed rigorous quarantine and testing requirements: “The results came in yesterday. The final virus testing of our (regular) crew was negative. For the past month in Hawaii, the crew has been quarantined aboard and no visitors allowed.”

New crew joining the ship were also isolated until testing showed them to be virus free.

“Covid cases have sky rocketed recently in Hawaii,” Captain Brad said, “and we had to take this very seriously as any virus on the ship would have meant sickness in our family and the end of our charter in RMI.”

Captain Brad added that the crew will all be tested again before they are allowed ashore. “Like other virus free nations in the Pacific, RMI is rightly very cautious of it’s visitors.”

RMI Ports Authority Sea Ports Manager Thomas Maddison confirmed that the crew will be tested when they arrive and must show negative test results before they will be allowed into the country. “They were tested before they departed Hawaii and on arrival, a Ministry of Health team in full personal protection gear will board the ship to conduct (Covid) tests.” Maddison said.

The charter came about as part of the RMI’s partnership in the Micronesian Sustainable Shipping Project that is supported by the Deutshe Gesellshaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). 

Captain Brad said the KWAI’s charter in RMI is “part of their commitment to the Paris Climate Accords to reduce the carbon emissions of their shipping fleet.” The SV KWAI recently made news for doing two trips to the Pacific Gyre (a.k.a. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch) to collect huge quantities of fishing nets and plastic debris through a charter from the Ocean Voyage Institute.