Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, is hailing the decision by the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its no-sail order for ships in US ports as a step in the right direction.
Speaking in a recent interview with JIS News, Mr. Bartlett said that while it will take some time for full normality to return to the cruise industry, the move by the CDC is a win for Jamaica and other Caribbean cruise-dependent nations.
He said that countries can now fast-track their preparations to meet all the expected protocols that will be required.
“This is a win for the cruise industry, which has been basically paralysed since operations ceased back in March amid COVID-19 outbreaks at sea,” he noted.
“There are, however, strict conditions… that both the cruise lines and their island partners, including Jamaica, will have to follow. Just like how the hotels have had to put in their set of protocols, the cruise sector will have to meet certain requirements to protect passengers and staff and also their destination of travel,” he told JIS News.
The Tourism Minister said that the CDC has put the onus on cruise companies to prove that their COVID protocols are working, with specific testing requirements and trial runs before passengers can return.
In addition, operators will have to enter into written agreements with land-side medical facilities to treat any affected passengers.
Minister Bartlett said that cruise shipping is an integral part of the local economy, noting that attractions, craft traders, bus drivers, duty-free merchants and souvenir shop owners were among some of the hardest hit by the lockdown.
“We are going to have to now enter into a new way of thinking so as to accommodate their re-entry. As I said, it will take some time before we have it all together, but the main thing is hope…and that’s what the CDC has given us in removing its no-sail order for the ships,” he pointed out.
For his part, Executive Director of the Royal Shop chain of duty-free stores, Ravi Daswani said the news that the ban on cruising has been lifted is one “that reverberates positively throughout the entire sector”.
“We all have been waiting for the sign that this day would come. It has been a long road of pain and suffering. Hopefully, this will materialise soon so we can all start to earn again,” he told JIS News.
The CDC, on Friday (October 30), in addition to lifting its no-sail order, which would have expired on October 31, also released a list of detailed requirements that could put ships back in operation in the coming months.
The agency’s 40-page directive requires a phased approach to restarting cruises. Companies must first demonstrate that they can successfully protect crew members from COVID-19, then conduct simulated cruises with volunteer passengers, and obtain a “Conditional Sailing Certificate” from the CDC.
Companies with ships in US waters will have to adhere to crew management plans approved by the CDC earlier this year that require them to provide individual cabins for all crew members.
Most cruise companies — Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages — have cancelled all cruises leaving from US ports until at least December 1.