The UK Chamber of Shipping and Clia have called on the government to issue a clear timeline for the resumption of cruising, starting with domestic cruises in early 2021 and followed by international itineraries to destinations with travel corridors in the spring.
The call came following the publication of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce report, which backed the phased resumption of cruising but said the restart had been delayed following “a significant rise in Covid-19 cases in the UK and abroad”.
The report added: “Against this context, it was rightly considered that now is not the right time to see the resumption of cruise operations from the UK and the FCDO continues to advise against sea-going cruise travel based on the latest medical advice.”
The report said the resumption of cruise when permitted would start with UK round-trip itineraries for UK residents only, but with a limited appetite the sector was keen to quickly progress to European ports of call before a full restart of global cruising.
It said that it may consider easing guidance against cruising when the national Covid-19 level is at level 3 and heading towards level 2 but did not commit to the approach. The UK is currently subject to national restrictions, with a lockdown in England due to revert to regionalised restrictions after December 2.
The report said: “From a health perspective, it is proposed by PHE (Public Health England) that it may be appropriate to resume cruises when the national alert level is at level 3 and when a move to level 2 is being considered by the Chief Medical Officer.
“However, the locations, proportion of the population and associated restrictions on any areas in higher tiers of restrictions would need to be taken into consideration. In addition, operators will also need to demonstrate compliance with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) protocols, including formal commitment to accepting responsibility for repatriation costs and protocols.”
In response, a joint statement from the UK Chamber of Shipping and Clia said: “Whilst we welcome the publication of today’s report and the government’s broad commitment to restarting the cruise sector, there is still no certainty about when an industry that employs 88,000 people and is worth £10bn a year to the economy can restart.
“The government must now set a timeline to safely start domestic cruises in early 2021, and international cruises to destinations for which travel corridors are open from spring 2021.”
It added: “As the government rightly acknowledges, the industry needs this clarity and confidence to start planning for operational restart of cruise ships which can take up to three months. The government must also remove the outdated Foreign Office travel advice on international cruising.
“We need to start preparing now for a phased resumption of international cruising over the coming months, in line with the protocols agreed between the industry and government, and help protect the tens of thousands of jobs which rely on a successful UK cruise industry.”
Phil Nuttall, chief executive of The Travel Village, said: “It’s scandalous that the government can put themselves in a position where they can’t give us a date for the resumption of ocean cruise, while at the same time waxing lyrical about their vaccination programme that they are going to roll out.
“They reckon that the majority of people will be vaccinated by the spring, with older people, who are the key demographic for cruising, offered the vaccine first. So there’s no reason whatsoever why they couldn’t say that cruises could restart by April 2021, with no-one allowed on a cruise ship without a vaccination passport.”
He added: “The government fails to understand that it’s going to take months for the cruise lines to get their ships back in the water and all their crew back on board, and their suppliers all lined-up again – assuming those suppliers are in business still.
“The government is away with the fairies in terms of understanding the whole logistical situation. The cruise industry needs notice to be able to plan. There is so much at stake here and the fact they have failed to grasp this, is unacceptable. If the government doesn’t make a commitment now to a date for the restart of ocean cruising, who’s to say what will happen to the industry.”
Nuttall said he had taken all cruises with departures prior to May 1, 2021 off his website in light of the news.
“I can’t put my customers or my team through a series of more cancellations. I can’t stomach it and I don’t think mentally, they could cope with it,” he added. “The government are just leaving us in the dark and it’s not fair.”
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