Tag Archives: ship

Cruise ship races to evacuate residents from Caribbean island of St. Vincent as volcano threatens to erupt

Authorities in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent have ordered mandatory evacuations on Thursday, saying they believe an active volcano is in danger of exploding.

The island’s emergency management office switched the alert level to red and said the first cruise line will in the next few hours evacuate those who live near La Soufrière volcano. It was not immediately clear how many people would be evacuated, where the ship would take them or if they would remain temporarily aboard.

Roughly 16,000 people live in the red zone and will need to be evacuated, Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press.

Evacuation efforts could be hampered by the pandemic.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a news conference that people have to be vaccinated if they go aboard a cruise ship or are granted temporary refuge in other nearby islands.

‘An emergency situation’

He said two Royal Caribbean cruise ships are expected to arrive by Friday and a third one in the coming days, as well as two Carnival cruise ships by Friday. Islands that have said they would accept evacuees include St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua.

“Not everything is going to go perfect, but if we all co-operate … we will come through this stronger than ever,” Gonsalves said.

He said he was talking to other Caribbean governments to accept people’s ID cards if they don’t have a passport.

“This is an emergency situation, and everybody understands that,” he said.

Gonsalves added that he highly recommends those who opt to go to a shelter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain of more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated.

Joseph said emergency management teams have been going out to communities in the red zone and providing transportation to safer locations, including prearranged shelters.

“They know who doesn’t have transportation because all of this has been canvassed before,” she said, adding that those who board the cruise ship would not be taken elsewhere but would remain there for an unspecified period of time.

Officials said the dome of the volcano located on the island’s northern region could be seen glowing by nightfall. The alert issued Thursday evening follows days of seismic activity around La Soufrière.

Volcano could erupt in hours or days

Gonsalves urged people to remain calm and orderly.

“I don’t want you panicked,” he said. “That is the worst thing to do.”

Scientists alerted the government about a possible eruption after noting a specific type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. local time on Thursday that indicated “magma was on the move close to the surface,” Joseph said.

“Things are escalating pretty quickly,” she said of the volcanic activity, adding that it was impossible to provide an exact forecast of what might happen in the next few hours or days.

A team from the seismic centre arrived in St. Vincent in late December after the volcano had an effusive eruption. They have been analyzing the formation of a new volcanic dome, changes to its crater lake, seismic activity and gas emissions, among other things.

The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.

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Egypt seeks settlement with ship owner for Suez Canal blockage

The Suez Canal chief said Tuesday that authorities are negotiating a financial settlement with the owners of a massive vessel that blocked the crucial waterway for nearly a week.

Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie told The Associated Press he hoped talks with Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the Japanese owner of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given, will conclude without a lawsuit.

“We are discussing with them a peaceful resolution to the matter without resorting to the judiciary,” he said. He maintained that bringing the case before a court would be more harmful to the firm than settling with the canal’s management.

The canal chief said last week the Suez Canal Authority was expecting more than $ 1 billion US in compensation, warning the ship would not be allowed to leave the canal if the issue of damages turns into a legal dispute.

That amount takes into account the salvage operation, costs of stalled traffic and lost transit fees for the week that the Ever Given blocked the canal. He did not specify then who would be responsible for paying the compensation.

Investigation underway

The massive cargo ship is currently in one of the canal’s holding lakes, where authorities and the ship’s managers say an investigation is ongoing.

Rabie also said Tuesday investigators have analyzed data from the Voyage Data Recorder, also known as a vessel’s black box, but no conclusion had yet been reached on what led the Ever Given to run aground.

He refused to discuss possible causes, including the ship’s speed and the high winds that buffeted it during a sandstorm, saying he could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Initial reports suggested a “blackout” struck the vessel, something denied by the ship’s technical manager.

Last week, salvage teams freed the Ever Given, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce.

“We’ve achieved one of the world’s biggest salvage operations under difficult and complicated circumstances … in only six days,” Rabie said. 

Shutdown unprecedented

The Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe ran aground on March 23 in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Asian Sinai Peninsula.

Its bow was touching the eastern wall, while its stern looked lodged against the western wall — an extraordinary event that experts said they had never heard of happening in the canal’s 150-year history.

“The case that we had was complicated and non-traditional, so there should have been a non-traditional solution,” Rabie said.

WATCH | Tugboats help free ship in Suez Canal:

The gigantic container ship Ever Given has been freed from a sandy bank in Egypt’s Suez Canal after a team of tugboats helped pull its heavy bow from the shore and send it on its way. 0:56

He said they relied on dredgers to remove sand from underneath the hulking vessel.

Then, a flotilla of tugboats, aided by the tides, wrenched the bulbous bow of Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged.

Rabie said it was a difficult decision to use dredgers because it was the first time authorities had used such machines in rescue operations in the canal. But it proved fruitful, he said.

The unprecedented six-day shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, added strain on the shipping industry already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

The canal authority said it cleared a maritime traffic jam that had grown to more than 420 vessels waiting on both ends of the Suez Canal and in the Great Bitter Lake and the canal was back to its normal average.

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Traffic through Suez Canal starts up again as stranded ship finally freed

Ship traffic through the Suez Canal has slowly resumed after salvage teams managed to move the 200,000-tonne container ship that had blocked all passage through the crucial waterway for nearly a week.

Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the sandy bank of the canal, where it has been lodged since last Tuesday.

“We pulled it off!” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the Ever Given, in a statement. “I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given, thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again.”

Flanked by tugboats, the ship made its way cautiously to the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal, where it was undergoing a technical examination to see if it was damaged and whether or not it is safe to proceed to its original destination of Rotterdam.

Billions of dollars worth of goods delayed

About $ 9 billion US ($ 11.3 billion Cdn) worth of goods normally pass through the canal every day, and the backlog of ships numbered nearly 400 when Ever Given was finally moved on Monday.

Dozens more had already left the canal’s entrance and are making their way along the lengthy alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.

With canal transits stopped, Egypt already has lost over $ 95 million in revenue, according to the data firm Refinitiv. If the ship is freed in the next few days, clearing the backlog of ships waiting to pass through the canal would take over 10 days, Refinitiv said.

Even before the ship was fully freed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi portrayed the development as a victory in his first comments on the stranded vessel.

“Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis,” he wrote on Facebook.

In the village of Amer, which overlooks the canal, residents cheered as the vessel moved along. Many scrambled to get a closer look while others mockingly waved goodbye to the departing ship from their fields of clover

The situation on the Suez Canal strained supply chains and forced some ships to take a longer route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

“Mission accomplished,” one villager Abdalla Ramadan said. “The whole world is relieved.”

The price of international benchmark Brent crude dropped some two per cent to just over $ 63 US on the news.

WATCH: Hundreds of ships are lined up behind the Ever Given, trying to get through:

Ships sit idle waiting to pass through one of the world’s busiest trade routes, which has been blocked by the Ever Given since Tuesday. 0:39

The unprecedented shutdown has threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East and raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers.

It has also prompted new questions about the shipping industry, an on-demand supplier for a world now under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve gone to this fragile, just-in-time shipping that we saw absolutely break down in the beginning of COVID,” said Capt. John Konrad, the founder and CEO of the shipping news website gcaptain.com. “We used to have big, fat warehouses in all the countries where the factories pulled supplies — Now these floating ships are the warehouse.”

The high tide on Monday helped rescue teams get the ship, bearing 20,000 truck-sized shipping containers, moving again. (Maxar Technologies/The Associated Press)

Although the exact cause of the grounding are still unknown, the Ever Given lost power in the middle of a sandstorm last Monday, while it was about six kilometres north of the entrance to the canal. It rammed into the eastern bank of the canal, while the stern of the ship drifted west and also got stuck in the sand.

Dredgers, tugs and other equipment had very little luck in moving the colossal ship bearing 20,000 truck-sized shipping containers, until high tide on Monday proved to be the boost that rescue teams needed.

As a window for a breakthrough narrows with high tide receding this week, fears have grown that authorities would be forced to lighten the vessel by removing the ship’s 20,000 containers — a complex operation requiring specialized equipment not found in Egypt that could take days or weeks.

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Cargo ship stuck in Suez Canal has been partially freed

Engineers on Monday “partially refloated” the colossal container ship that remains wedged across the Suez Canal, a canal services firm said, without providing further details about when the vessel would be set free.

For nearly a week, the skyscraper-sized Ever Given hauling goods from Asia to Europe has blocked maritime traffic through the vital artery, holding up $ 9 billion each day in global trade and straining supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic. Over 300 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, are waiting to pass through the canal, while dozens more are taking the alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip, adding some two weeks to journeys and threatening delivery delays.

The partial freeing of the vessel came after intensive efforts to push and pull the vessel with 10 tugboats when the full moon brought spring tide, raising the canal’s water level and hopes for a breakthrough. However, it was clear that challenges remained, as satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed the ship in the same position, surrounded by a squadron of tugs with its bulbous bow stuck in the canal’s eastern bank.

A top pilot with the canal authority, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the ship had been partially refloated and said that workers were still struggling to dislodge the bow.

Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, said workers continued “pulling maneuvers” to refloat the vessel early Monday.

Overnight, several dredgers had toiled to vacuum up 27,000 cubic metres of sand and mud around the ship. Another powerful tugboat, Carlo Magno, was racing to the scene to join the efforts.

For nearly a week, the skyscraper-sized Ever Given hauling goods from Asia to Europe has blocked maritime traffic through the vital artery, holding up $ 9 billion each day in global trade (Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)

Although the vessel is vulnerable to damage in its current position, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns the Ever Given, dismissed concerns on Monday, saying that the ship’s engine was functional and it could pursue its trip normally when freed.

Ship operators did not offer a timeline for the reopening of the crucial canal, which carries over 10 per cent of global trade, including 7 per cent of the world’s oil. The unprecedented shutdown could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East.

Canal authorities have desperately tried to free the vessel by relying on tugs and dredgers alone, even as analysts warned that 400-metre-long ship may be too heavy for such an operation. As a window for a breakthrough narrows with high tide receding this week, fears have grown that authorities would be forced to lighten the vessel by removing the ship’s 20,000 containers — an complex operation, requiring specialized equipment not found in Egypt, that could take days or weeks.

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Massive container ship stuck in Suez Canal, blocking world’s busiest shipping route

A container ship almost as long as the height of the CN Tower and twice as heavy is wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal, having blocked all traffic in the vital waterway for more than a day — with no sign that it’s moving any time soon.

The MV Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground Tuesday in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula. Images showed the ship’s bow had collided with the eastern wall of the canal, while its stern looked lodged against the western wall.

Nearly a dozen tugboats worked together to try to nudge the obstruction out of the way as ships hoping to enter the waterway began lining up in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

An earlier report Wednesday suggested that the ship has been “partially refloated,” but Ahmed Mekawy, an assistant manager at marine agency GAC, says that report was wrong, and that the 400-metre-long ship with a sailing weight of 220,000 tonnes was still very much stuck late in the day local time.

It remains unclear when the route, through which around 10 per cent of world trade flows and which is particularly crucial for the transport of oil, would reopen. About a million barrels of oil pass through the canal on a normal day, and the backlog of delayed deliveries is already causing the price of oil to spike.

The North American oil benchmark known as West Texas Intermediate gained $ 1.97 US to just shy of $ 60 a barrel. Brent, the type of oil used in Europe and the blend most commonly passing through the canal every day, was up by even more.

Officials on the ground stressed that everything that can be done is being done.

About 30 ships are gathered at the southern entrance of the canal, waiting to enter. Another 30 or so are stuck in the canal, while another 40 or so are trying to get in from the North but can’t. (Scott Galley/CBC)

“The Suez Canal will not spare any efforts to ensure the restoration of navigation and to serve the movement of global trade,” vowed Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority.

Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which manages the Ever Given, said all 20 members of the crew were safe and that there had been “no reports of injuries or pollution.”

High winds a possible cause

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the Ever Given to become wedged on Tuesday morning. GAC said the ship had lost power and the ability to steer.

Bernhard Schulte, however, denied the ship ever lost power.

Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement that the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea, but none of its containers had sunk.

An Egyptian official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists, similarly blamed a strong wind. Egyptian forecasters said high winds and a sandstorm plagued the area Tuesday, with winds gusting as much as 50 kilometres per hour.

However, it remained unclear how wind alone would have been able to push a fully laden vessel. Typically, Egyptian pilots take over ships passing through the canal, but it wasn’t immediately clear if that happened with the Ever Given.

An image posted to Instagram by a user on another waiting cargo ship appeared to show the Ever Given wedged across the canal as shown in satellite images and data. A backhoe appeared to be digging into the sand bank under its bow in an effort to free it.

The ship ran aground some six kilometres north of the southerly mouth of the canal near the city of Suez, an area of the canal that’s a single lane.

That could have a major knock-on effect for global shipping moving between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, warned Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner and associate professor of history at North Carolina’s Campbell University.

“Every day, 50 vessels on average go through that canal, so the closing of the canal means no vessels are transiting north and south,” Mercogliano told the AP. “Every day the canal is closed … container ships and tankers are not delivering food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the Far East.”

Tugboats were trying to push the MV Ever Given into open water on Wednesday, and seem to have been at least partially successful. (VIA REUTERS)

Already, some 30 vessels waited at Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake midway on the canal, while some 40 idled in the Mediterranean near Port Said and another 30 at Suez in the Red Sea, according to canal service provider Leth Agencies.

There were concerns that idling ships in the Red Sea could be targets after a series of attacks against shipping in the Mideast amid tensions between Iran and the U.S.

“All vessels should consider adopting a heightened posture of alertness if forced to remain static within the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden,” warned private marine intelligence firm Dryad Global.

The Ever Given, built in 2018 with a length of nearly 400 metres and a width of 59 metres, is among the largest cargo ships in the world. It can carry some 20,000 containers at a time. It previously had been at ports in China before heading toward Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The stranding Tuesday marks just the latest to affect mariners amid the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands have been stuck aboard vessels due to COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, demands on shipping have increased, adding to the pressure on tired sailors, Mercogliano said.

“It’s because of the breakneck pace of global shipping right now and shipping is on a very tight schedule,” he said. “Add to it that mariners have not been able to get on and off vessels because of COVID restrictions.”

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GM Cuts Pickup MPG to Ship Vehicles During Semiconductor Shortage

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According to GM, the ongoing semiconductor shortage has forced it to ship certain pickups without a fuel module they would otherwise carry. We’ve known automakers were having trouble sourcing necessary chips, but the decision to ship vehicles without a previously intended part is a startling acknowledgment of how semiconductor demand is warping the world.

Reuters reports that vehicles using a 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 with a six-speed or eight-speed transmission will have lower fuel economy by one mile per gallon. The EcoTec3 is reportedly rated for ~16 miles per gallon. Mathematically, it’s a 6.25 percent reduction. A little napkin math assuming 13,500 miles per year and $ 2.86 per gallon suggests the difference comes out to ~$ 161 per year in additional fuel costs.

GM 5.3L V8 Ecotec3 engine. Image by GMAuthority

We’re guessing that the chip in question is responsible for GM’s Active Fuel Management implementation. AFM allows an eight-cylinder car to turn itself into a four-cylinder vehicle when only being lightly driven.

GM was a bit cagey on exactly which models would be impacted. Spokeswoman Michelle Malcho stressed that GM was protecting the profitability of its pickup line and did not name the number of vehicles that would ship without this specific module. The change is only expected to run through the end of 2021. In car terms, that happens in the late summer or early fall. Even money on whether the change actually gets extended to 2022.

How’d We Get Here?

The semiconductor industry and the auto industry work on very different timelines. Auto manufacturing relies on just-in-time delivery (JIT). The semiconductor industry expects long lead times. TSMC and Samsung build different chips for different companies at different times of the year. Keeping a fab at full utilization requires careful scheduling, especially when ramping production ahead of a major smartphone launch.

GM and the other automakers cut their orders in the early part of 2020. When car demand re-emerged faster than expected, they attempted to book new orders with TSMC and Samsung only to discover that both companies had no capacity to spare. The auto manufacturers have accused foundries of playing favorites based on volume. The foundries have pointed to rabid consumer demand, the increased silicon required for 5G devices (up to 40 percent more), disrupted supply chains, and that the auto manufacturers refuse to maintain chip inventories.

The foundries seem to have the superior argument, but we need to acknowledge the scope of the problem. Yes, GM and other auto companies should maintain larger chip inventories as a buffer against disruption, but the scope and length of these shortages would have already exhausted any reasonable inventory.

It’ll be interesting to see if other car manufacturers follow GM’s lead on this. Estimates on when the semiconductor shortage will ease currently suggest Q3 or Q4. Dates fluctuate by industry and market. If you’re wondering if anyone actually has a clue or if everyone is just guessing, you are not alone.

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Sony Will Ship New VR Hardware for PS5, but Not in 2021

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Up until now, Sony has been pretty quiet about their plans for VR on the PlayStation 5. While the company assured gamers that the PS4-era PSVR would still work with the PlayStation 5, it hasn’t said much about how much it intended to advance or extend the VR capabilities of the new console. The company has now announced a new PSVR headset, meaning one that’s specifically tuned for the PlayStation 5.

Sony is only teasing its design for now, but the company claims the new headset will improve on both the PS4-era PSVR’s field of view and its resolution. The first-generation PSVR had a 1920×1080 display (960×1080 per eye) and a 100-degree FoV. Competing headsets like the first-generation Oculus Rift claimed a 110-degree FoV (evaluations measured less) and the recent, high-end Valve Index claims a 135-degree FoV.

Sony also plans to bring “some” of its DualSense technologies to its new VR controllers. This means the company will finally be retiring the PlayStation Move controllers that it relied on for PSVR. The DualSense has been widely praised for its haptic feedback and variable resistance triggers, and we can safely assume any new control mechanisms will be more accurate than the 2010-era PS Move. The new PSVR system will connect to the console via a single cable. There is no mention of a wireless option.

Just how dedicated Sony is to this platform remains to be seen. In an October 29 interview with The Washington Post, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan poured cold water on the idea that VR would get a big boost on the PlayStation 5: “I think we’re more than a few minutes from the future of VR,” Ryan said. “PlayStation believes in VR. Sony believes in VR, and we definitely believe at some point in the future, VR will represent a meaningful component of interactive entertainment. Will it be this year? No. Will it be next year? No. But will it come at some stage? We believe that.”

When the company building the product isn’t willing to commit to more than “We think this could be big, at some distant point in the future,” it’s not unrealistic to ask just what kind of plans Sony is making, and in what time frame. For now, all Sony is saying is that the updated PS5 version of PSVR won’t launch in 2021.

We did it. We finally found a semiconductor-based product that didn’t sell well in 2020. Data and graph by IDC.

As of last January, Sony had moved 5 million headsets, but IDC reports total VR shipments from all vendors absolutely fell off a cliff last year. Sales fell 43.3 percent in Q1 2020, 43.7 percent in Q2, and 60.1 percent in Q3. SuperDataResearch, a division of Nielsen, estimates that the PSVR only moved 125K units in Q4 2020, for example. Since Q4 may have been the high water mark for shipments, it’s possible Sony moved fewer than 500K PSVR kits in total last year. Five and a half million wouldn’t be nothing for lifetime sales, but the company has shipped 115M PS4 and PS4 Pros to-date. This means PSVR adoption is under 5 percent.

The problem is, Sony has done very little to improve this situation. The PS5 is only backward compatible with the PSVR if you get a (free) adapter from Sony. Sony’s pointed comments about VR not being the future of gaming for now, and the fact that we won’t see a new PSVR until sometime in 2022 doesn’t send a strong message of faith in the platform. That’s unfortunate for anyone who doesn’t want to be part of Facebook’s VR ecosystem, as Sony is one of the few companies offering a relatively low-cost headset with paired controllers that can be paired with a larger system for increased rendering horsepower. The Valve Index wins a lot of rave reviews, but it also costs $ 1,000.

Right now, VR is stuck in the liminal zone between “nig enough to attract the mass market” and “too small to care about.” It’s great for Sony to support the capability, but it’s hard not to think that more attention and support from the company would bring about the VR future it predicts a little more quickly. It’s completely understandable that getting the console out the door was Sony’s first and largest priority. But the company is still sending mixed signals on what kind of long-term support potential customers should expect.

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Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine could ship to Canada within 24 hours of approval, exec says

Canada is well-positioned to approve Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine soon — and it could be delivered to the country very quickly after that, a BioNTech executive says.

“If I use the U.K. as an example, we got approval at 1:00 am in the morning. We approved [the] release of the vaccine and shipped it within 24 hours,” said Sean Marett, the chief business and chief commercial officer of Germany’s BioNTech, which partnered with the U.S.-based Pfizer to develop one of the world’s most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

“Certainly from the discussions that we’ve had, Canada is in a good position to approve the vaccine shortly,” Marett told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Sunday.

The Pfizer/BioNTech product — which was recently greenlit in the U.K. for emergency use —  could receive approval from Health Canada as soon as this coming week. Health regulators are currently reviewing three other vaccines produced by Moderna, AstraZeneca and Jannsen.

“Upon approval, we then release the vaccine and then it is shipped. We’ve already produced the vaccine and reserved doses for Canada,” Marett said on Rosemary Barton Live.

Regulatory approval is a key step before the finer details of the federal government’s rollout plan can be set in motion.

“We are negotiating for more precise delivery dates pending Health Canada approval,” Procurement Minister Anita Anand told CBC’s Vassy Kapelos earlier this week. “It’s for that reason that we’re putting the logistics systems in place so that there is no time lost between approval and then distribution to the provinces and territories.”

Rollout the ‘biological equivalent of a moon landing’

Marett called the distribution plan for the vaccine the “biological equivalent of a moon landing.”

“You’ve got to get everything exactly right, and that, of course, includes timings,” Marett said, when asked about exact delivery dates. “These things tend to … move around [for] a few days. But so far, from our experience with one country, the United Kingdom, we’ve seen things move pretty smoothly.”

WATCH | Welsh health minister talks lessons for Canada as U.K. prepares to vaccinate:

Welsh Minister of Health Vaughan Gething talks about lessons for Canada as Wales prepares to start COVID-19 vaccinations in 48 hours. 7:18

On Friday, Anand announced a contract with FedEx Express Canada to support the shipment of most vaccines across the country. 

But the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate will be delivered by the pharmaceutical company directly because the product needs to be kept at approximately -70 C to remain stable. Ottawa says it’s already secured enough freezers to store up to 33.5 million units of the vaccine.

Marett said transporting and housing products in sub-zero temperatures is a process that’s been “well mapped out.”

“Together with Pfizer, we’ve designed a storage box … in which the vaccine arrives. You can use that as a -70 freezer. You can open the box twice a day and take vaccine out as long as you re-ice it for up to 15 days,” he explained.

Distribution dry runs expected in provinces Monday

Canada has signed a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech to pre-order 20 million doses of the vaccine, with an option to buy 56 million more in the months ahead. Pfizer says the shots are 95 per cent effective based on Phase 3 clinical trial results.

Marett said his company was “completely stunned” by those findings, considering the vaccine was developed in a matter of months as opposed to years. 

“Ninety-five per cent efficacy, as defined by do you get [COVID-19] symptoms or not … is, in our view, a startling result,” he said.

Public health officials say that if all goes well, six million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are slated to arrive in Canada within the first three months of 2021. Both vaccines must be administered twice, meaning three million Canadians will be among the first to get a jab.

WATCH | Canadian officials rehearsing for vaccine distribution:

Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin briefed reporters Thursday. 1:55

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the former NATO commander now leading vaccine logistics and operations for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Friday that every province has now identified specific sites where shots will be received.

Fortin said that dry runs are expected to be carried out in each province on Monday to ensure that those involved in the rollout process are prepared to handle the “very unique requirements” of an ultra-cold vaccine.

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Trump says COVID-19 vaccine will ship in ‘a matter of weeks’ — but excludes New York

Gliding over significant challenges still to come, U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday offered a rosy update on the race for a vaccine for the resurgent coronavirus as he delivered his first public remarks since his defeat by president-elect Joe Biden. He still did not concede the election.

Trump spoke from the Rose Garden as the nation sets records for confirmed cases of COVID-19, and as hospitalizations near critical levels and fatalities climb to the highest levels since the spring.

He said a vaccine would ship in “a matter of weeks” to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals.

Public health experts worry that Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to co-ordinate with the Biden team during the final two months of his presidency will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.

As states impose new restrictions in the face of rising caseloads, Trump asked all Americans to remain “vigilant.” But he ruled out a nationwide “lockdown” and appeared to acknowledge that the decision won’t be his much longer.

WATCH | Trump makes closest nod so far to U.S. election result:

President Donald Trump made his closest acknowledgement of the U.S. election result Friday during a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, saying his administration would not initiate a lockdown in the future. He then added: “Who knows which administration it will be. I guess time will tell.” 0:54

“This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” he said. “Hopefully whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration it will be I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.”

Biden, for his part, has not endorsed a nationwide shutdown, but he appealed for Trump to take “urgent action” to curtail the spread of the virus.

“The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now,” he said in a statement Friday.

Trump said vaccines would “arrive within a few weeks,” saying they were ready and merely awaiting approval — and would be given “to high-risk individuals right away.”

In fact, there’s no guarantee that Pfizer’s shot, the front-runner, will get rapid authorization for emergency use. 

WATCH | What Pfizer’s vaccine trial means for the pandemic:

Infectious disease doctors answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and what the announcement by Pfizer about its early results from its vaccine means. 6:07

Even if it does, there’s no information yet indicating if the vaccine works in older adults or just younger, healthier adults. Nor does Pfizer have a large commercial stockpile already poised to ship; initial batches of shots would be small and targeted to certain still-to-be-determined populations.

Trump, aiming to settle political scores, said he would not ship vaccines to hard-hit New York until Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs off, noting that the state has promised to do its own review to ensure their safety.

“The governor will let us know when he’s ready,” Trump said.

WATCH | Trump singles out New York Gov. Cuomo:

U.S. President Donald Trump said a vaccine will be available for the country’s entire population by April, but claimed it won’t be delivered to New York state because Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to take his time authorizing it ‘for political reasons’ and because he ‘doesn’t trust’ the Trump administration. 1:27

Cuomo pushed back in a CNN interview, saying New York is one of several states that set up their own scientific panels to give residents greater confidence to take the vaccine if it is safe to use. He accused Trump of “politicizing the process.”

“As soon as they get us the drug, we are ready to distribute it,” Cuomo said.

Meanwhile, his campaign prediction that the U.S. was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic has met a harsh reality, with his own White House becoming the focus of yet another outbreak.

Trump’s aggressive travel despite the virus has taken its toll on his protectors as well. The U.S. Secret Service is experiencing a significant number of cases, many believed to be linked to his rallies in the closing days of the campaign, according to one official.

Transition delays

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, meanwhile, said Trump is “not even at that point yet” when it comes to conceding to Biden.

Trump has levelled baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, even as his own administration has said there is no evidence to support the claims.

His aides suggest he is merely trying to keep his base of supporters on his side in defeat.

WATCH | Stalled presidential transition disrupts U.S. COVID-19 response:

For the first time since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump acknowledges the possibility that it might not be his administration dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic going forward. 1:56

With more than 100,000 new confirmed U.S. cases reported daily for more than a week, Trump has been more focused on tracking the rollout of a vaccine, which won’t be widely available for months.

He has fumed that Pfizer intentionally withheld an announcement about progress on its vaccine trial until after Election Day, according to a White House official who was not authorized to publicly comment and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pfizer said it did not purposely withhold trial results. 

The president has consistently played down the pandemic, which has killed more than 240,000 Americans and infected more than 10 million people in the U.S.

WATCH | New Yorkers fear a repeat of COVID-19 situation from the spring:

For the third day straight, the U.S. has broken its own COVID-19 case record, with more than 150,000 new infections in just 24 hours. New Yorkers are scared about the situation getting as bad as it did in the spring. 1:43

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tested positive last week after attending an election night party at the White House.

Others at the party also have tested positive, including White House political director Brian Jack, former White House aide Healy Baumgardner and Trump campaign advisers David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski said Thursday that he believes he contracted the virus in Philadelphia while assisting the president’s election challenge there.

Biden, for his part, largely framed the election as a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic. He has made addressing the virus his top priority as he moves forward with his transition.

WATCH | Biden lays out plan to fight COVID-19 pandemic:

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has laid out his plans for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, urging people to wear masks, and naming his coronavirus task force. 2:09

He spoke by phone Thursday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about the intensifying pandemic and prospects for passage of a COVID-19 relief bill in the lame duck session of Congress.

Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Biden will appoint a “COVID co-ordinator” who will lead the administration’s pandemic response.

Klain, speaking on MSNBC Thursday night, said the individual will have “direct access” to the president and will brief him daily on the pandemic. A team of people under the co-ordinator will supervise vaccine distribution, address supply chain disruptions and improve access to testing.

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CBC | World News

‘Have a little compassion’: Canadians on cruise ship with 4 dead still unsure how they’ll get home

With a flu-like illness outbreak, four dead and confirmed cases of COVID-19, it’s been a horrific week for the 1,243 passengers — including 247 Canadians — stuck aboard the Zaandam, a Holland America Line cruise ship that was sailing off the coast of Panama.

Now, passengers can add more problems to the list: although Panama allowed the Zaandam to pass through the Panama Canal, passengers still don’t know for certain where the cruise ship will dock, and when they’ll be able to return home. 

That’s because while the ship has plans to dock and let passengers disembark in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., county officials in the region are concerned about letting in a coronavirus-hit ship.

“They’re not wanting us there, so where are we going to go?” said passenger Cheryle Stothard of Toronto. She and her husband have been confined to their cabin for the past week, because of the illness outbreak. 

“Going through the Panama Canal is useless if we can’t get off in Florida,” said the 71-year-old.

Cheryle Stothard and husband Tony of Toronto are still aboard the Zaandam and have developed a cough and runny nose. (Submitted by Cheryle Stothard)

Since cutting short its South American cruise on March 14 due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the Zaandam has been seeking a place to dock so passengers can return home. 

On Friday, Holland America announced that 138 passengers and crew have fallen ill with “influenza-like illness symptoms,” and that four “older” passengers had died. The Zaandam is also carrying 586 crew members — one of whom is Canadian.

None of the dead is Canadian. Holland America didn’t provide a cause of death for the four passengers but said that the ship tested “a number” of patients for COVID-19 on Thursday, and two were positive.

Passengers grew hopeful on the weekend after learning that the Zaandam could pass through the Panama Canal. Late Sunday, the ship began moving through the canal.

But Holland America’s plan to then dock in Fort Lauderdale isn’t a done deal because Broward County, which includes the city, has yet to give the green light. 

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine told CBC News that the county is already overrun with COVID-19 cases — more than 1,000 to date  — so he’s apprehensive about letting in a ship that will add to its problems. 

“We’re a hotspot here. Our medical facilities are taxed,” said Udine. “If there are sick people that have to come off, I want them to be able to come off … but where are they going to go? What hospitals are going to be able to take them?”

‘Somebody’s got to let us dock’

Udine’s apprehension is upsetting for passenger Margaret Tilley, who’s desperate to return to her home in Nanaimo, B.C.

“Let’s have a little compassion,” said the 71-year-old. “It just doesn’t seem right. Somebody’s got to let us dock.” 

The Zaandam began its cruise on March 7 and had initially planned to dock on March 16 in Punta Arenas, Chile, to let passengers off early. However, the country refused to allow passengers to disembark, so the ship set course for Fort Lauderdale. 

On Saturday, Tilley and her husband were moved to the Zaandam’s sister ship, the Rotterdam. Holland America sent the ship, along with medical personnel and supplies, to rendezvous with the Zaandam and transfer “healthy” passengers to the Rotterdam.

Just let us get straight from the boat to a vehicle and to the airport. We don’t want to stay in Fort Lauderdale.– Margaret Tilley, passenger

Both ships got permission to enter the Panama canal. Tilley said she wants Broward County to know that the healthy Canadians onboard won’t be a burden and just want to get home. 

“Just let us get straight from the boat to a vehicle and to the airport. We don’t want to stay in Fort Lauderdale.”

The Rotterdam cruise ship joined the Zaandam on Friday to deliver medical supplies and transfer healthy passengers to the Rotterdam. (Submitted by Margaret Tilley)

Udine said that all the passengers would have to be quarantined upon arrival, because some could be asymptomatic.

“There’s a lot of things that are going to need to be worked out by this cruise ship before they simply get disembarking in Broward County.”

Udine said the county will review a plan for how Holland America will handle the situation and likely make a decision soon. 

Meanwhile, more passengers are reporting illnesses. Stothard said that she and her husband Tony have both developed a runny nose and cough. That means they must remain in their cabin, on board the Zaandam along with other ill passengers, who are in isolation. 

“We’ve got to get off,” said Stothard. “The longer we stay on here, the more cases we’re going to have.”

Passengers Chris and Anna Joiner send a message to the Canadian government asking for help while stuck on board the Zaandam. (Submitted by Chris Joiner)

Why did they go on a cruise?

Some CBC readers wondered why passengers boarded a cruise on March 7 when COVID-19 was spreading globally.

CBC News asked several Canadian passengers aboard the Zaandam this question. They responded that when they started their journey, there were very few COVID-19 cases in South America. 

The continent didn’t have any reported cases until one was confirmed in Brazil on Feb. 26. 

Some passengers also said that, when they were set to begin their trip, there was no opportunity to get a refund. 

Tilley and her husband left Nanaimo on Feb. 28 and travelled for a week in Argentina before their cruise. She said only in hindsight does she see the warning signs. 

‘[The virus] was in China,” she said about that time period. “We thought South America would be safer.”

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CBC | Health News