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B&A flags issues/opportunity for ports after CDC cruise guidance

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Among the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest technical guidelines are specifics on port-cruise line user agreements.

As Bermello Ajamil & Partners detailed in a bulletin, each agreement needs to include the total number of ships permitted to operate, number of ships that will be allowed to call, embark and disembark, hours of the day, days of the week and during which times these activities will occur, along with a maximum number of travelers permitted during those hours and on those days.

Other specifics include jointly considering the number of passengers/crew that can safely operate at any one time without exceeding the capacity of the local health authorities and emergency responders to handle a COVID-19 outbreak on a ship.

Procedures must avoid congregating embarking and disembarking travelers and ensure they don't occupy the same enclosed or semi-enclosed areas, such as gangways, terminal waiting spaces and check-in areas, within the same 12-hour period, while also ensuring that passengers from different ships don't occupy those areas in the same 12-hour period.

The 'real work'

B&A identified the 'real work' of these agreements begins by determining which cruise operators and ships can sail from each port.

'The linkage of the individual agreements reached at ports within an itinerary will be paramount,' B&A said. 'For example, the homeports of Seattle or Vancouver may well be affected by the days of the week and capacities of the downstream US ports in Southeast Alaska based upon their agreements. If there are limits set on the number of ships and passengers in any given port per day and/or hours, then this will certainly limit overall the number of cruise ships and itineraries that can be offered to cruisers.'

Of course, as B&A noted, there's more than the US requirements to consider, and Canada/New England cruises are also affected with Canada currently closed to cruise ships until 2022 and no movement on US legislation to modify the Passenger Vessel Services Act to allow ships to bypass Canada during the 2021 season.

Long-term implications

A growing number of US-based lines are announcing plans to operate outside the US in the coming months, from the Bahamas, St. Maarten, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bermuda and other places.

'The long-term impact of these operations is yet to be understood but based upon past experiences — such as 9/11 or the [oil] crisis — cruise corporations found new operating models that were so successful, they outlived that particular crisis and now are commonplace in the industry.' B&A asks: Will that occur again?

Opportunity knocks?

B&A noted that today many people drive eight hours or overnight to their cruise homeport as a result of 9/11, when air travel was restricted. This allowed more US ports to become homeports without needing airlift as a key component. The location of some of these new homeports will offer 'new and fresh itinerary packages which might be very attractive to customers,' B&A said.

'So, one of the primary questions will then be: will this temporary fix lead to a new operating paradigm for the cruise industry moving forward? There will definitely be opportunities that this new deployment shift might create.'

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