Australia’s cruise industry faced another setback when the government extended its ban on international cruise ships for another three months to September 17.
The Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed that the human biosecurity emergency period, which has been in place since March 17, 2020, would be extended from June 17 until September 17.
The news was greeted with “great disappointment”, with Cruise Lines International Association Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz saying it had expected that the government would announce a pathway forward for sailings to resume first.
Mr Katz said Tourism Minister Dan Tehan had made statements which appeared to indicate that cruising may be back on the cards, giving some of Australia’s biggest operators like P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Princess, the chance to resume operations in Australia.
The cruise industry will now ask the government’s health advisers to meet with Dr Ian Norton, the founder and managing director of Respond Global and former head of WHO’s Emergency Medical Team Initiative in Geneva from 2014 to 2020, where he led responses to the Ebola, diphtheria and measles outbreaks in various countries.
Dr Norton is also an external expert advising several cruise lines on their health and safety protocols, include Coral Expeditions, Ponant, Aurora Expeditions, APT and MSC.
Dr Norton said, “I do think there are differing medical views here. There is a zero-risk approach being taken, but we firmly believe the measures and extra controls put in place for cruising domestically by the industry are very robust, and bring risk to very acceptable measures even now, and this will further strengthen as the population continues to get vaccinated.
“The expedition cruising by Coral have shown us its possible and safe here in Australia, and we are proud to support MSC who have passed 60,000 passengers since last August. We are interested to ensure those providing medical advice to the Minister are fully across the industry’s commitments and health protocols and their ability to mitigate risk.”
APT will this week begin sailings in The Kimberley aboard the foreign flagged Caledonian Sky after being forced to recruit 30 Australian hospitality workers in a market. Four other cruise lines with bookings for the region – Ponant, Scenic, Silversea and Aurora.
Over 44,000 Australians have sent MPs messages calling on the government to release a plan to restart cruise as part of a CLIA Ready.Set.Sail campaign.