The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is calling on the Australian government to replace the ban on cruising with a series of measures to support a gradual return to cruising.
According to the association, the measures were developed as part of a process to create worldwide mandatory policies for all CLIA members oceangoing cruise ships and have been outlined to the Australian government in detail.
With the cruise set to lift on 17 December, CLIA’s regional managing director Joel Katz said a conditional process would allow cruise lines to progress towards approval for a carefully managed resumption in 2021.
“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,” Katz said.
“This would initially involve restricted local cruises for local residents only, with limited passenger numbers, 100 per cent testing of guests and crew, and extensive screening and sanitation protocols in place.”
Under CLIA’s proposed strategy, cruises would initially operate within state or national borders while travel restrictions are in place.
“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,” 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.”
While cruise operations have been suspended, cruise lines have used this time to develop new health measures in response to COVID-19, guided by medical and scientific experts internationally and locally forming the basis of an industry-wide policy covering ship’s operations, including the specific screening, sanitisation and medical protocols that will operate in response to COVID-19.
CLIA’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 promises to meet or exceeds the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia (CDNA) guidelines. 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 an additional burden on existing hotel quarantine systems.
- 100 per cent 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 the 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 the movement of passengers in high traffic areas.
- Hand and respiratory hygiene protocols, including hand-washing and sanitisation 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 maximise 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 on board.
- Risk assessments for port visits and shoreside activities to ensure appropriate shoreside systems.
Featured image source: iStock/JavenLin