The Australian Government’s Department of Health has told Cruise Passenger it IS considering a staged approach to a cruise resumption instead of the current ban on international ships, which is set to expire December 17.

The positive statement, the most encouraging for some time from a government department, follows a push from CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz and his members to get Canberra and the states and territories to study new health protocols put forward by international cruise lines and examples from countries where cruising has restarted.

“Australia’s success in stemming COVID-19 creates the opportunity for governments to confirm a pathway towards cruising’s revival – one that offers local cruises for locals only, while international borders remain closed, and supports an economic recovery,” Katz said at the weekend.

The Department of Health said there has been no date set for the resumption of either larger domestic or international cruises, but a spokesperson said: “Options being considered include a staged approach to cruise resumption”.

The Government said it had been consulting with key bodies such as CLIA in the cruise industry.

“Above all, the Government will need to be assured that cruise ships can operate in a COVID-safe way and that the risk of transmission is acceptably low before cruise operations will be permitted,” the spokesperson said.

The current cruise ban has been in place since March 27 and prevents foreign flagged ships entering Australian waters and ships with capacity for more than 100 people carrying passengers.

Speaking of the September decision to extend the ban into December, the spokesperson said: “At that time, the AHPPC considered cruise ships continued to pose a high risk of transmission for COVID-19 in the current global and domestic situation”.

However, they confirmed the advice on cruise restrictions is regularly reviewed by the government and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), and will be refined to respond to changes.

According to CLIA, while the ban has been in place, the Australian economy and communities have lost almost $2 billion.

Mr Katz said the industry’s latest annual Economic Impact Assessment highlighted the pandemic’s impact on the $5.2 billion annual economic contribution and 18,000 jobs that the cruise industry supports in Australia in usual times.

“By the end of December this will have risen to a massive $2 billion loss, given the ongoing pause in operations during the traditional summer peak cruise season, with another $3 billion at risk across the economy if the cruise suspension continues into 2021,” Mr Katz said.