Australian cruise line Scenic has been forced to cancel an exciting program of Kimberley sailings for the revolutionary Eclipse discovery yacht because it couldn’t get agreement on permits and approvals.

Ponant, Silversea and Aurora are all still awaiting permission to begin a Kimberley season – though APT has reported good news with approval for Caledonian Sky’s itineraries with just 99 crew and passengers.

In a statement, the line said: “Over the past few months, Scenic has been working closely with industry bodies such as the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) and the relevant Federal, State and Territory Government authorities, agencies and national health committees, to ensure we comply with all the protocols to operate in the Kimberley region. However, despite the Scenic management and operations team’s best efforts, the existing restrictions regarding international flagged vessels means that it is currently not feasible for Scenic Eclipse to operate in Australian coastal waters.”

The much-anticipated season would have seen Scenic’s flagship Eclipse discovery yacht, complete with helicopter and submarine, in Australian waters for the first time.  The vessel, designed by Scenic founder Glen Moroney, has set a new trend in the cruise industry and is being copied by other luxury lines.

But it meant a 30-day journey for the vessel and its crew, a huge investment which could not be completed without having the approvals in place.

“At the time we launched our Scenic Eclipse Kimberly program we were confident that by late June 2021 we would be able to deliver a unique experience for our guests,” said Anthony Laver, Scenic Group General Manager, Sales & Marketing Australasia.

“Whilst the vaccination schedule looked very promising and there was much anticipation that lockdowns and border closures would no longer be required, unfortunately this has not been the case.

“We were preparing to bring Scenic Eclipse from the northern hemisphere to Australia with a fully quarantined, tested and vaccinated crew, on a 30+ day journey at sea and to operate in full compliance with the strict procedures specified by the various government agencies. However, with the continued uncertainty on the timing for permits and approvals to be granted, it is not possible for us to relocate the ship and crew in the hope that at some stage these restrictions may be lifted.”

The Scenic decision will be a big blow to the Kimberley region, where local businesses and Aboriginal tourism operators were looking to restart experiences.  A recent Northern Territory decision about passengers and crew numbers aboard ships in its waters has cost local businesses more than $20 million.