The Federal Government has continued the almost two-year ban on foreign flagged cruise ships until February 17 – devastating the industry which has lost 18,000 jobs and $5 billion in revenue.
Minister Greg hunt said in a statement: “The extension of these arrangements made by the Governor-General was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer,” said the minister’s statement.
“Continuation of these arrangement will allow the important measures currently in place to continue as the Government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant.”
Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said Australia was the only major cruise market in the world without an agreed plan to resume cruising, which is ordinarily worth more than $5 billion a year to the Australian economy.
“The suspension of cruising has been devastating for the 18,000 Australians who depend on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, entertainers, port workers and many other industry suppliers,” Mr Katz said. “In other countries close to five million people have already sailed successfully under the cruise industry’s extensive new health protocols. We need federal and state governments to use the coming weeks for genuine discussions with the cruise industry so we can plan a similar revival in Australia.”
Mr Katz said : “Cruising has changed enormously in response to the pandemic and the work our industry has done with medical experts internationally has resulted in health protocols that are successful in mitigating the risks of Covid-19,” Mr Katz said. “With vaccination rates increasing and borders opening, we need agreement on the way forward throughout Australia so there can be a careful revival of cruise tourism in communities around the country.”
Mr Katz said it would take several months of preparations before cruise ships could return to Australian waters.
“Cruising involves long lead-times, so it is essential that the industry can work closely with all governments and health authorities to establish detailed operational plans ahead of resumption,” Mr Katz said.
The move comes after talks with NSW government officials reached an impasse thanks to Omicron.
The earliest a ship is likely to sail on Australian waters now is May – which is on the verge of winter, the slowest cruise season.
Hundreds of family holidays, jobs and billions of dollars in lost revenue rest on a date of a restart.
There were hopes that the Act may only be renewed by a month, rather than three. Perhaps the two month ban instead of three suggests attitudes to cruising may be softening in Canberra.
The lines with the most at stake are Carnival Australia’s Princess, P&O and Carnival Cruises – P&O, for instance, had cruises selling for March, 2022.
It takes approximately 90 days to turn around a ship.
P&O was still listing cruises in March on Friday and today announced Tasmania’s country-rock duo The Wolfe Brothers will be the headline act on one of the cruise line’s popular Country Music Festival at Sea cruises in 2022.
Carnival Cruises have moved its first sail dates to April 8 for Carnival Splendor and April 120 for Carnival Spirit.