Bob Sanguinetti, ceo, UK Chamber of Shipping specified that the documents relate to ‘a managed return, starting with the UK only’, emphasising that ‘it’s going to take time for the world to go back to being used to travelling globally’ and that the guidance forms part of a ‘risk-based approach.’
So said Sanguinetti, ‘The cruise sector is a vital part of the UK economy. This new UK Chamber of Shipping Framework gives the government, passengers, crew and operators the confidence that the very latest science and medical advice has been included in the industry's planning process. A huge amount of time and effort has gone into this work and the new documents, which are fully supported by the sector, is a testament to the commitment of all concerned to protect the health and well being of cruisers, seafarers and the public.
‘This is the first of a number of phases we need to go through… Cruising is unique… the operator has full oversight of the health of its passengers. You don’t see that in any of the other hospitality sectors.
He added, ‘We’re not talking about cruise starting today or tomorrow. This is a longer term view… Through the framework, we’re laying the baseline on which cruise lines will build their own management plans.’
Donnacha O'Driscoll, evp maritime, Carnival UK added, ‘This is a sector that voluntarily stopped operations… The risk profile isn’t right at present. We’re not looking to rush out there, but return safely.’
On whether the document should have been published earlier, O’Driscoll says, ‘It’s been an ever changing landscape… If we had engaged too soon I do feel it would have put people in a spin.’
Andy Harmer, svp membership & director, CLIA UK & Ireland said, ‘This is the culmination of extensive dialogue and collaboration by representatives from across the maritime sector working together with government and national health authorities.
This is an industry that supports more than 88,000 jobs and generates £10 billion to the economy each year and the industry is taking the necessary steps to be ready to restart in the UK when the time is right.’
He added, ‘Health and wellness and safety are at the heart of what we do.’
Existing shore-side UK government guidance, as well as guidance from the European Centre for Disease Control, the European Maritime EMSA, EU Healthy Gateways and the IMO, has shaped the Framework for mitigating and managing COVID-19 on board cruise ships, which has already been endorsed by Cruise Britain.
‘Cruise Britain welcomes the publication of this Framework which is an essential initial step towards the safe resumption of cruise operations in the UK when the time is right’, says James Stangroom, Chair Cruise Britain. ‘Ports and service providers throughout the UK are ready and waiting to work with cruise operators, and we look forward to playing our part in rebuilding an industry which has been so successful over the last decade.’
Stangroom went on to add, ‘The enhanced detailed measures outlined in the Framework, in conjunction with any additional localised measures identified and implemented, will give confidence to all who work in the industry, both on board and ashore, and also to the passengers from the moment they book their cruise holidays.’
The Port of Dover has welcomed the Framework, with the Port's Sonia Limbrick, head of cruise commenting, 'The Port has already implemented robust COVID-safe processes with its ferry partners to ensure continued safe travel from Dover. Now we look forward to doing the same with our cruise partners.
'In order to do so once again, the safety of our guests, ships crew and our staff will be our top priority so that cruising can start once again with confidence when the time is right', she concluded.
Maritime Minister Robert Courts said the ‘cruise industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 and the government has worked alongside the sector to prepare for a safe and successful restart. This industry framework puts passengers and workers at its heart and is an important step forward to allow cruises to prepare to set sail when safe to do so.’
Part of the measures for operators includes making agreements with select ports along voyages for disembarkation of infected passengers - or passengers suspected of COVID-19 - so that they can receive medical care or be repatriated home.
Shore excursions offered by operators also ought to comprise health measures comparable to those onboard ships, including social distancing, mandatory use of face coverings and hand hygiene facilities.
If an outbreak occurs, or if there is a confirmed or suspected case on board, the guidance is to notify the MCA and the FCO Global Response Centre. Isolation and quarantine wards on ships, and enhanced ventilation systems are among the facilities that vessels should be in possession of; collaboration with national authorities for contact tracing, quarantine of contacts and disembarkation of confirmed COVID-19 case are among the follow up measures.
Overall, the onboard experience should mirror that of the UK government guidance for some land-based venues, and restrictions on services and events and closing of targeted facilities may need to be carried out.
The Framework calls for external verification by a third party to ensure operators’ COVID-19 management plans meet the standards specified in the Framework documents.
Crew will be quarantined on arrival in the UK, after which they will be permitted to begin working on the vessel only once a test for COVID-19 has produced a negative result.
Periodic PCR testing is expected where feasible; if one seafarer shows symptoms, a contingency plan which includes retroactive contact tracing to identify any close contacts, will come into effect.
The maximum number of seafarers living in the same cabin should be two and operators are expected to ensure seafarers live and work in cohorts, based around job type and shift time.
The Framework calls for all workers on board the vessel to complete training concerning coronavirus.
The Framework gives advice on how passengers should board the vessel. All passengers should be screened before embarkation and frequent handwashing is encouraged by passengers.
Passengers are also expected to understand any on board limitations and restrictions, with public venues on board restricted to UK government guidance at the time.