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Brisbane Cruise Terminal -cruisepassenger.com.au

Hope at last that cruising could return to Australia

After almost two years a campaign spearheaded by lobby groups and travel industry partner, cruise ship operators have at last captured the attention of the Federal Government and produced a plan that looks as if it may produced a workable solution for Australia’s cruisers.

But while Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed over the weekend that the government will be working with states and territories to bring back cruising in Australia, he added it will be up the state governments to “ensure they are ready.”

Mr Hunt said New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are the states most “advanced in their consideration,” meaning it is likely that Australians will see cruising out of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne first.

“Work has advanced significantly with states and territories, it will be up to them to ensure they are ready and feel they are in a position to do this,” said Mr Hunt.

“We are simply in the position now of waiting for protocols to be agreed and developed by individual states and territories.”

But the good news was tempered by the fact that it still needs a meeting of Australia’s highest health body, the AHPCC, headed by professor Paul Kelly and representatives from each state.

Last week, the government continued the ban on foreign flagged vessels until April.  If all went well with the AHPCC approving a pathway forward and the states agreeing on protocols that would allow passengers and crew to enter their waters, it would be June before the first ships arrived.

What do the states say?

With Mr Hunt stating the ball is firmly in the court of the states, Cruise Passenger contacted them for comment.

Northern Territory 

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade said: “Since April 2021 the Northern Territory has had a framework in place that allows for a staged resumption of cruising, and is informed by public health. A key criteria of the framework is a cap on the number of persons on board a vessel in Territory waters of 150 (passengers and crew combined). A small number of expedition ships have been received since that time.”

“The next stage in returning cruising in the NT will be to further lift the cap on the number of persons able to cruise and this is anticipated for the 2022 season. Unrestricted cruising in the Territory will recommence once the public health emergency is no longer in place.

“Cruising is an important sector for the Northern Territory, both the home porting of expedition vessels and the larger cruise ships which visit during the quieter summer months.

We look forward to welcoming cruise ships and passengers back to the Northern Territory.”

Tasmania

A Tasmanian government spokesperson said: “The current Commonwealth Biosecurity Order by the Australian Government that bans all foreign flagged cruise ships with a sleeping capacity of over 100 passengers from entering Australia has been extended until 17 February 2022 and Tasmania is compliant with this ban on international cruise ship travel.”

“From 15 December 2021, small domestic cruise ships have resumed operating in Tasmania, following updated Tasmanian Public Health Directions. Expeditions must leave from, remain in and return to Tasmania with a maximum of 99 passengers on board. Additionally all passengers and crew must be fully vaccinated and return a negative COVID-19 test result 72 hours prior to departure.”

“Pending the update from the Australian Government on 17 February, the Tasmanian Government is currently considering future directions of cruise tourism in Tasmania, recognising the very strong growth of this market pre COVID-19.”

“Considerable work will need to be undertaken in conjunction with Tasmanian Public Health to support any future resumption of international cruise tourism to ensure appropriate protective measures are in place and compliance with current public health orders in relation to the prevention and management of COVID-19.”

New South Wales

A NSW Government spokespersons said: “The cruise industry is an important part of the New South Wales and Australian economy, which has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. With the news that the Federal Government is set to re-open international borders to fully vaccinated air travellers from 21 February, it is important that Australia provides a clear pathway forward for the cruise industry as well.”

“The decision to lift the ban on cruising sits with the Federal Minister for Health.”

“The NSW Government is eager to work with the Federal Government and industry to support the safe resumption of cruising. The priority for New South Wales is to ensure strong safeguards are in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19, including to regional areas.”

Western Australia

A representative from the office of Premier Mark McGowan said: “This is a matter for National Cabinet and we cannot say much else at this point.”

Other states have been contacted for comment.