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Alaska ports are planning to develop COVID-19 cruise protocols

CRUISE Ketchikan.jpg PHOTO: SEANNA O'SULLIVAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Ketchikan is joining with Skagway in commissioning Bermello Ajamil & Partners to develop COVID-19 port protocols
Ketchikan and Skagway are jointly engaging Bermello Ajamil & Partners to look at developing COVID-19 protocols for cruise ship visits.

A significant action

This is significant because, to date, nearly all ports have been waiting to take their cue from cruise lines — a cue that may be too late in coming, officials in Skagway and Ketchikan said.

In a letter to the Ketchikan City Council, Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata noted he had worked closely with Ketchikan representatives since March to develop a regional approach for the establishment of protocols to safely berth cruise ships in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

'To date, the efforts of the cruise lines to establish these protocols have fallen short of our desired level of protection for residents and visitors, and I hope that engaging B&A will move the region closer to its goal,' Cremata wrote.

'Guidance to an industry that appears to be struggling to develop a cohesive plan'

'With only 10 months until the start of the 2021 cruise ship season, I fear that complacency could leave little time for the cruise companies to implement our requests if we don’t act swiftly,' the mayor continued. 'We’ve been waiting for months to see the industry’s response to the CDC’s no-sail order to no avail. By working together on this endeavor, we not only protect the health of our residents but offer guidance to an industry that appears to be struggling to develop a cohesive plan.'

At Thursday night's Ketchikan City Council meeting, it was agreed to move forward with the B&A work.

'No time to wait'

'We don't have time to wait for the industry to bring something to us,' Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon said. 'We have to move this forward and think what we need for industry protocols for how we want the industry to come in.'

'As of today, most ports, with a less than single handful of exceptions, have not published any protocols that work to protect the public health of their communities while attracting the cruise business back,' B&A said in its proposal in response to a request from Skagway. 'Moreover, short of cleaning, most facilities are not being adjusted in order to allow for new flows [and] protocols that may be put in place.'

'Cannot be accomplished by cruise lines alone'

Cruise lines are selling 2021 Alaska cruises now, and if there are going to be new procedures or limitations, they must be worked on as soon as possible, B&A said.

'It is therefore imperative and prudent for regions to begin setting protocols that are acceptable to them and their communities and presenting them to the cruise lines to consider as they develop their own protocols. To begin, a comprehensive plan needs to be created that examines the complete journey of the passenger. This cannot be accomplished by cruise lines alone.'

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