With lockdowns happening all over Europe, it would seem unlikely cruises could be back on the program for the U.K. any time soon. However, the opposite seems to be true. Government ministers are looking into allowing cruising around the British Isles from January.
The news comes after the U.K. Chamber of Shipping, together with Cruise Lines International Association U.K. and Ireland, and the different cruise lines have developed four different frameworks that go into great detail how to operate during and prevent an outbreak of cases of COVID-19 onboard.
Discussions Already At An Advanced Stage
Although government ministers initially dismissed any chances for the Cruise Lines to start-up amidst the pandemic, that line of thinking now seems to have shifted. There have been discussions on a phased re-start for the cruise lines.
The first step for the cruise lines would be to implement test cruises to verify if the frameworks work effectively. Once these test-voyages prove successful and operationally viable, it could lead to cruises restarting around the U.K. coast, and the ban lifted entirely.
Some creases will need to be ironed out. According to the Daily Mail, Whitehall asks cruise lines to repatriate guests in case of an outbreak onboard if a cruise line operates a voyage in foreign or international waters.
This is not a surprising move as the Foreign Office has spent millions of pounds at the beginning of the year helping 19,000 cruise passengers get back to the U.K.
With the news of a vaccine imminent and rapid testing becoming more reliable, it seems unlikely cruise lines would not agree to repatriation requests, especially if it means starting to operate ships again in the U.K.
Whitehall reacts: “Working to allow the industry to reopen safely”
A source from Whitehall, quoted by the Daily Mail, said:
“We are working on a framework to allow the industry to reopen safely early in the new year. That will allow cruises to re-start and enable bookings to take place to start bringing money into the industry again.”
The source makes clear that although discussions are underway, cruise lines will need to take responsibility:
“We need to be sure that ships have the right infection control measures in place, the proper testing regime, and the right facilities to allow them to contain an outbreak. In terms of foreign cruises, we will need an acceptance that operators have to take responsibility for repatriating their passengers.”
Implementing Frameworks Will Not Be Easy For Cruise Lines
Four different frameworks have been developed by the Chamber of Shipping and CLIA to help the cruise industry to return cruising.
These frameworks all focus on COVID-19 management plans the cruise lines must have in place before setting sail. The plans are not dissimilar to the ones implemented by the CDC in the United States:
- Cruise lines will need to have specific ports available for disembarking any COVID-positive guests or crew.
- Cruise lines are banned from letting passengers disembark in countries that are not on the U.K.’s travel corridor list.
- Social distancing, wearing masks, and testing all passengers and crew before each voyage will be standard.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio has already said last month that his company would need at a minimum 60 days to prepare for the U.S. CDC’s framework for safe sailing. Whether the cruise lines that plan to operate in the U.K. need the same is uncertain. However, with the amount of work that the preparation requires, January seems hopeful.
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