Australia’s cruise industry has launched a campaign to press the government not to extend the ban on international vessels, which is due to end on December 17.

As reported three weeks ago, the industry health regimes are being studied by the Australian government.

Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA), which represents cruise ship owners, is pressing for consideration of the health protocols.  And their campaign launch came as the first Royal Caribbean cruise to test the tough new protocols left Singapore’s cruise terminal.

Scores of volunteer passengers are on board Quantum of the Seas, the ship due to start cruising out of Brisbane’s new terminal at Luggage Point next year.

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According to CLIA, extensive new health measures developed with the help of international medical experts are laying the foundation for a “carefully controlled” resumption of local cruise ship operations in Australia.

The association maintains these measures  have been outlined to Australian government agencies in detail.

CLIA’s Managing Director Australasia, Joel Katz, said the cruise industry was calling on the Australian Government to replace the current ban on cruising, which expires 17 December, with a “conditional process that would allow cruise lines to progress towards approval for a carefully managed resumption in 2021”.

He said: “Australia’s relative success in stemming community transmission of COVID-19 – together with the Australasian cruise industry’s robust strategy – creates an opportunity for a tightly managed and phased revival of the country’s $5 billion-a-year cruise industry.

“This would initially involve restricted local cruises for local residents only, with limited passenger numbers, 100% testing of guests and crew, and extensive screening and sanitation protocols in place.”

Under proposals, cruises would operate within state or national borders – in other words, NSW people only would cruise from Sydney, while Queenslanders would cruise from Brisbane and Victorians from Melbourne.

“This would offer protective protocols against outside infection while at the same time allowing a revival of the economic benefits of cruise tourism in Australia,” said CLIA.

“Working with governments and health authorities, cruising can progress a responsible restart domestically within Australia, using ships and crew that have gone through all required quarantine procedures,” Mr Katz said.

“Ships and crew would then remain within the Australian safe-zone or bubble, offering cruising to locals within Australia until international borders reopen.”

The lines’ new health protocols have been developed by “eminent medical and scientific experts internationally and locally”, says CLIA.

How CLIA sees the restart of Australian cruise:

Key to the cruise industry’s plan for resumption of cruising in Australia is a layered prevention, mitigation and response strategy, which aims to go far beyond the COVID-19 responses of other areas of the travel industry.

The plan presented to government is extensive and meets or exceeds the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia (CDNA) guidelines, says CLIA.

Examples of measures presented within the strategy include:

  • Plans to quarantine ships and crew on return to Australia, and for ongoing crew movements, without putting additional burden on existing hotel quarantine systems.
  • 100% pre-boarding health screening and COVID-19 testing for all passengers and crew, with a negative test required for boarding.
  • Passenger health declarations for illnesses and contact history screening.
  • Passenger communication from time of booking, outlining screening requirements, safety precautions, reporting responsibilities, and how to comply with sanitation and prevention protocols.
  • No boarding for anyone subject to any COVID-19 exposure restrictions or who has recently arrived in Australia.
  • Daily health monitoring and daily temperature checks on board.
  • Limited passenger numbers and capacity management controls that take into account the size, layout, and design of each ship.
  • Onboard venue restrictions, to comply with current social distancing guidance (use of masks as required).
  • Flow and directional controls for movement of passengers in high traffic areas.
  • Hand and respiratory hygiene protocols, including hand-washing and sanitization stations.
  • Designated crew to serve passengers in buffets (no self-service).
  • Compulsory crew training for COVID-19 safety and for all duties that relate to enhanced health and safety protocols.
  • Daily health screening and temperature checks for all crew, in addition to regular COVID-19 testing.
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols that meet and exceed all national and state standards for equivalent venues onshore.
  • Ventilation strategies to increase fresh air and, where feasible, using enhanced filters and other technologies to maximize system effectiveness.
  • Staggered embarkation and disembarkation processes to reduce crowding and to facilitate physical distancing.
  • Distancing and hygiene protocols within cruise terminals to match those onboard.
  • Risk assessments for port visits and shoreside activities to ensure appropriate shoreside system