MORE than 100 doctors and dentists are stranded on board a cruise ship stuck off the coast of Chile.
The Roald Amundsen, owned by cruise firm Hurtigruten, was stopped from docking amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news and updates
Passengers were on a 10-night cruise taking in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and the Chilean Fjords as part of a medical and dental conference.
The 10-deck ship – which can hold 500 passengers – left Chile on February 29 and was scheduled to return to Punta Arenas to offload passengers on Tuesday.
But those on board are now stranded because of the country’s newly-imposed rules banning ships from docking after a previous cruise passenger tested positive for the killer virus.
The South American country’s health ministry announced the hardline ban on Twitter on Sunday.
Speakers at the event – organised by Unconventional Conventions – included some of Australia’s top medical professionals and a World Health consultant.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs told The Guardian it was aware of the situation and would provide consular assistance to those on board.
Norwegian owned Hurtigruten said it is now working with local authorities in Chile to get the passengers off the ship.
“Our passengers and crew are our top priority and all are well,” said Damian Perry, MD of Hurtigruten Asia Pacific.
“Our task force’s focus is to get all passengers home as quickly and safely as possible and we are regularly updating our passengers on board with our plans to get them home.”
The firm also insisted those on board the huge ship – which has a infinity pool, bars and a gym – were doing well.
Bill Portanova, an attorney from California, is among those stuck on board.
According to the Sacramento Bee, he sent a text message saying: “I’m trapped.”
“The story we got is that they worked something out where we would be taken to the port, health screened, removed from the ship with masks and gloves directly into buses and straight to the airport,” he said.
“But some locals got wind of the plan and there was some kind of a protest, so the deal fell through.”
He also reportedly said the abundance of medics on board had allayed fears over the killer virus.
Chile reported 155 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday and president Sebastián Piñera announced he would close his country’s borders to foreigners from Wednesday.