In a blow which will further test the resilience of the world’s top cruise brands, the US Centres for Disease Control has extended the ban on sailings or another 100 days “or until COVID-19 is no longer deemed a public health threat.”
“The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of Covid-19 are necessary to protect Americans,” CDC director Robert Redfield said in a statement.
Cruise lines have also been told they must develop a “comprehensive, detailed plan approved by CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard” that includes medical screenings; crew training and new disease management measures on board.
Cruise Lines International Association, the ship owners representative organisation, issued a statement saying they were “concerned about the unintended consequences the No Sail Order has in singling out the cruise industry, which has been proactive in its escalation of health and sanitation protocols and was one of the first industries to announce a voluntary suspension of operations.”
According to the association “should the suspension of sailing extend well beyond the appropriate time to resume business, the economic impact could be significant given each day of the suspension results in a total economic impact loss of about $92 million and the loss of more than 300 direct and 620 total American jobs”.
The organisation claimed a year-long suspension would cost America $51 billion and 173,000 direct and 343,000 total American jobs.
“While it’s easy to focus on cruising because of its high profile, the fact is cruising is neither the source or cause of the virus or its spread. What is different about the cruise industry is the very stringent reporting requirements applicable to vessels that do not apply to comparable venues on land where the spread of communicable disease is just as prevalent. It would be a false assumption to connect higher frequency and visibility in reporting to a higher frequency of infection.”
According to the Centre, there are some 100 cruise ships in U.S. territorial waters with nearly 80,000 crew onboard.
Meanwhile in Australia, Royal Caribbean Australia/NZ Managing Director Gavin Smith has told the Australian he hoped to b sailing in local waters by October, the traditional start of the cruising season.
“It’s going to be a challenging road ahead. We need to restore confidence in the Australian public as an industry; we are going to do that. We will look at a gold standard for public health as it relates to our industry,” he told the newspaper.
He agreed new health measures would be needed, as well as a revision of itineraries.
“We are looking at every variable already. We have to be ready to go as and when consumers and society feel safe to get back to taking cruising holidays,” he said.