Statement on Grand Princess Cruise Ship Disembarking in Oakland

Sunday, March 8, 2020

I want to provide the community with an update regarding the arrival of the Grand Princess to the Port of Oakland sometime tomorrow (Monday, March 9) and the disembarkation plan— which from my perspective has been done with considerable deliberation, consultation among federal, state, and local leaders and health officials, is well-designed, and is driven by values of public safety, public health, compassion, and humanity.

First, let me say this:  In this time of urgency, the public expects and deserves leaders at all levels of government— federal, state, county, city, etc.— working together, in partnership, in collaboration, helping achieve a common goal.  And that is what I am seeing.

I am very sensitive to the perception that the Grand Princess being berthed and disembarked at the Port of Oakland— instead of in San Francisco— is wrong and unjust.  Frankly, that was my first reaction.  It is absolutely appropriate to view this through the historical context and lens of environmental racism and injustice in Oakland, specifically in West Oakland, including exposure to toxics, dirty air, and lead.

But from my vantage point and in my estimation, after being briefed, informed, and hearing directly from the team collaborating to execute this operation, my view is that the disembarkation operation of the Grand Princess is not at all the same.

The Governor’s team reviewed all of the assets up and down California to determine the best location to berth and disembark the Grand Princess. There are certain logistical requirements for doing so, including deepwater access, that were necessary for feasibility. 

The cruise ship terminal in San Francisco is far from ideal for this operation and would lead to undue risk.  There are pedestrians, tourists, automobile traffic, businesses— in short, lots of people— all in very close proximity there, which creates considerable obstacles to establishing a safe zone that is physically separated by a barrier (literally, a gate/fence) for safe disembarkation and avoidance of exposure to the general public.  If the coronavirus were to become uncontrolled and spread in San Francisco, it would just be a matter of time before it spread to Oakland and throughout the Bay Area.

After preliminary screening, the City of Alameda— specifically the former Naval Air Station— was identified as the preferred site.  But due to a silting issue— i.e., the lack of deep water access— it was logistically unfeasible. 

So the Port of Oakland was selected as the best site overall. 

Why? 

The location that will be used— the outer harbor, specifically, the former Ports America terminal— provides an approximately 11-acre site that can be gated/fenced— literally physically separated by distance and barrier/buffer— and allow for the set up and breakdown necessary for this operation.

The federal government will secure the area— the result will be that the public will be shielded.

There will be a separation, containment, quarantine, isolation from workers and community members that promotes public safety and public health.

In addition, the Port of Oakland site provides proximity and access to (1) Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, where the nearly 1000 Californians aboard the Grand Princess will be transported and quarantined, and (2) the Oakland Airport NORTH FIELD— which is NOT the airport with terminals for the general public that I and most passengers use for commercial flights, that is the SOUTH FIELD— where passengers can be transported for boarding of their special charter flights via the tarmac and be repatriated to their home state or country, following best practices for quarantined/contained conditions to avoid exposure to the public.

The ship’s crew (among whom the super majority— 19 of 21— of the confirmed coronavirus cases aboard the Grand Princess have occurred) will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship. 

And importantly, the ship will only stay in the Port of Oakland for the duration of disembarkment.

Best practices and the most up-to-date protocols will be used for separation/isolation/quarantine/containment throughout.

Let me reemphasize:

Passengers will NOT be released into the general public.

This ship will depart Oakland as soon as possible and will remain elsewhere for the duration of the crew's quarantine.

Hope this is helpful.

We will do our best to answer your questions and keep you informed.

Rob