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After a brief snag, work forges ahead on Antigua's new cruise pier

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The new berth will be able to handle the world's largest cruise ships

According to Meridian Construction, the marine contractor leading the pier expansion, with the exception of the suspension of construction activity during the first 10 days of the government curfew and a few manufacturer delays caused by COVID-19, the majority of the project components are on schedule. The construction team continues to work toward finalizing the pier in anticipation of the handover to Global Ports Holding.

One month dredging delay

The project is about 60% complete but a slight delay is anticipated. The ship berthing area has been dredged to almost 50% of the required depth.  This activity was scheduled to be completed in mid-June but may be delayed by about one month. On completion, the harbor will be dredged to a depth of 10.7 meters.

Antigua Cruise Port is being redeveloped through a 30-year lease agreement between the government of Antigua & Barbuda and Global Ports Holding. On completion, St. John's will have a new pier that can accommodate cruising's biggest ships, which will make it possible for the port to serve as many as 1m passengers per year, up from 800,000 now. The port will also have new retail and food and beverage facilities, plus an additional 50,000 square feet of commercial space to be leased to Antiguans and Barbudans.

Work commenced in October 2019.

'As of March 31, apart from the dredging activities, the project was fully on schedule. After the government curfew was enacted, the team suspended construction for a few days and incorporated several precautionary measures,' said David Corbella, principal marine engineer, Global Ports Holding.

Work in shifts

Day and night shifts were established to reduce the number of people working on the site at any given time, and social distancing protocols were established. Daytime crews were reduced to 50 people and the nighttime crew to 25 people at any given time. Shifts were added to ensure the project stays on schedule as much as possible.

Corbella noted social distancing can be particularly difficult on a construction site where, for safety reasons, it is preferred team members do not work alone. 'As a result, we are monitoring the team’s activities very carefully for everyone’s protection,' he said.

Temperature checks are being conducted at the entrance to the site and face masks were provided to all crew members, who are required to wear them. Hand sanitizer dispensers are available at all workstations on the site. Each morning 'toolbox' meetings are held to review the precautionary measures and regulations, in addition to other site updates.

Collaborative effort

'COVID-19 has certainly presented a challenge for us, but thanks to strong collaborative efforts between Antigua Cruise Port, the government of Antigua & Barbuda, the port authority, our GPH technical team and Meridian, we are still making great progress,' Corbella said.

'We remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver significant economic benefits to Antigua & Barbuda and to create a stunning, world-class port facility that will be primed and ready to accommodate those Oasis-class ships and more as the industry begins to rebound, said Dona Lisel Regis-Prosper, general manager of Antigua Cruise Port.

ADELTE passenger boarding bridges en route to Brisbane

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The HYDRA bridges are traveling aboard the heavy lift transport vessel RollDock Star

The bridges were loaded on the heavy lift transport vessel RollDock Star at the Port of Barcelona last week, and the ship is now sailing to Queensland, Australia.

Terminal can take largest cruise ships

Scheduled to open in October, the terminal will be capable of handling the world's largest cruise ships.

This closely follows ADELTE's delivery of passenger boarding bridges to Port Canaveral and PortMiami.

New UK company, Tradewind Voyages, to operate former Flying Clipper

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The newbuild currently referred to as Brodosplit 483 will be renamed and operated by a new UK company

Currently called by its newbuild name Brodosplit 483 — after the Croatian shipyard where it was constructed — the vessel remains owned by the yard, a subsidiary of the DIV Group, according to a news release.

Commissioned by Star Clippers, the ship was completed last summer but has been subject to a legal dispute.

Ponant hopes to resume cruising this summer from France

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From Le Havre, Le Dumont D'Urville will focus on Normandy and the pink granite coast

Still subject to national, prefectorial and port authorizations, they are currently offered only for pre-reservation, until the French government gives its approval.

If that happens, 'We should resume our cruises as soon as July 4,' said Hervé Bellaiche, chief sales and marketing officer for Ponant.

Five itineraries along the French coasts

Cruising off the beaten track, exploring natural jewels and combining cultural enrichment with time to unwind, the routes reflect Ponant's philosophy and are detailed on the company's website under 'Eté 2020' (French for 'the time being'). Weeklong departures are offered until September.

On 11 cruises from Saint-Malo, Le Champlain and Le Jacques Cartier will explore the Ponant Islands in a tribute to the places that inspired the company's name 30 years ago. Highlights include Brehat, Scilly, the Morbihan Gulf and Belle-Ile-en-Mer.

From Le Havre (13 cruises), Le Dumont D'Urville focuses on Normandy and the pink granite coast (Etretat, Chausey and Batz Islands). Bordeaux (12 cruises) serves as the gateway for Le Bougainville, with the nature and famous gastronomy of New Aquitaine (Arcachon, Ré and Houedic islands, Fort Boyard).

From Marseille (14 cruises), L'Austral explores the Côte d'Azur (Camargue, Esterel coast, Hyères Islands and 'secret' sides of the Saint-Tropez peninsula). Nice (11 cruises) is the turnaround port for Le Lyrial, which heads to Corsica's scenic sites like Bonifacio and the Maddalena Islands.

Not just for the French

'These cruises are not only for French passengers. As usual, English will be also spoken on board our ships. And foreign guests are welcome as long as travel and sanitary conditions allow it,' Bellaiche said.

Ponant is also negotiating parking at embarkation ports for those who drive their own cars. And if travelers don't want to drive or take a train or plane, the line can organize a private transfer from home to the ship and back.

COVID-19 protocols

Before Ponant suspended sailing, it didn't have any reported COVID-19 cases among passengers or crew.

In order to resume, 'We have set a double protection principle which includes checking 100% of the persons and goods before embarking, then strict sanitary protocols applied on board,' Bellaiche said. The measures are detailed on Ponant's website.

Adaptable DeCurtis platform guides on health measures

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There are three minimum requirements suggested for launch

DeCurtis Corporation's new health solution can be updated to suit the current health climate and makes location and proximity integration possible for secure venues. As part of the digital offering, contract tracing and retroactive timelines can be introduced in addition to biometric integration for real-time reporting. 

‘While cruise has historically done more than practically any other form of travel, this most recent crisis has emphasized that the “more” was simply not enough’, comments Derek Fournier, president, DeCurtis Corporation.

Silversea takes in-person delivery of Galápagos ship Silver Origin

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Manfredi Lefebvre embarks Silver Origin via the Marina

Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, President and CEO Roberto Martinoli, SVP Hotel Operations & On-Board Revenue Damien O’Connor and Chief Marketing Officer Barbara Muckermann attended the handover.

Silver Origin will take over from Silver Galapagos, which began sailing in the archipelago in 2013.

'Nothing can compare'

'There is no comparison between Silver Origin and whatever else you can find in the Galápagos,' Lefebvre enthused during a webinar today that showed off the elegant, spacious, 100-passenger ship.

It offers all balcony suites, light-filled interiors and 'whispered' elegance. 'We don't want to shout,' Martinoli said. The design and colors are 'extremely conducive to a very relaxing vacation.'

Basecamp comprises a large portion of the lowest deck where passengers embark and will go to meet their expedition leaders. There, an expansive, interactive LED screen is loaded with images, videos and information from the Galápagos National Park and the Royal Geographic Society of London.

There is plenty of dining capacity for everyone indoors and out, with 120 seats in The Restaurant and 100 in the top deck Grill, where screens shelter diners from wind. Ecuadorian cuisine will be featured in line with Silversea's immersive S.A.L.T. culinary concept, and the Grill will offer hot rocks cooking.

Fire pit

The 112-seat Explorers Lounge is Silver Origin's 'living room,' with intimate seating groupings, a fire pit powered by liquefied petroleum gas, a library, grand piano and terrace. Lectures and briefings will be held here, taking advantage of a large video wall and HD screens in the seating areas. The Observation Lounge provides a hideaway with 180-degree views.

Technogym equipment is featured in the fitness center, which has floor-to-ceiling windows. Alongside are a spa and beauty salon.

New peek-a-boo suite features

The suites include features new to Silversea like windows in the bathrooms or shower stalls with glass walls or doors to the balcony, depending on the category. ('We just hope our guests will remember to put a robe on,' Muckermann quipped.) The owner's suite measures 160 square meters/1,722 square feet and has a whirlpool tub with ocean views.

Silver Origin will never go alongside

The 5,800gt Silver Origin is too large for any piers in the Galápagos so it will never go alongside but will use dynamic positioning to stay in place. Passengers will embark in Zodiacs from the aft Marina. Silver Origin has eight Zodiacs, or one for every 12 people, a 1:1 crew to guest ratio and one guide for every 10 guests.

Wet suits and snorkeling gear will be provided. There are eight double sea kayaks for guests and two kayaks for guides.

Martinoli thanked De Hoop Shipyard, which 'overcame many challenges to complete the ship,' including voluntarily working through the COVID-19 shutdown. Low water and high water conditions were other challenges.

'It has been extremely rewarding to work on this project, and we are proud for having been able to deliver the ship in spite of the external challenges,' De Hoop CEO Patrick Janssens said.

AIDA eyes Europe restart, drops US/Canada cruises through year's end

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AIDA Cruises is planning a quick restart in Europe this summer

The cancellation was due to uncertainty, given the ongoing US ban of European travelers. Also, Canada recently extended its ban of cruise ships through October.

Plans for restart in Europe under way

AIDA Cruises said it is working on a quick restart, based on the opening of European borders.

As the COVID-19 situation stabilizes in most EU countries, travel is starting to be allowed. Germany has announced it will suspend travel warnings to German citizens for all EU member states plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein from June 15.

Cruising for Germans, from Germany?

Industry insiders believe ocean cruising from German ports for German passengers could be gradually restored from July/August, under different conditions. Sources told Seatrade Cruise News this could first happen with domestic itineraries (calling German ports only), followed by sailings to nearby foreign ports in Europe.

Small upmarket ships are expected to be first out in that context.

AIDA passengers on the canceled US/Canada programs can get a full refund or a 110% future cruise credit that can be applied to any sailing through 2021.

RCL stretches liquidity runway to at least 12 months with $2bn senior/convertible notes offerings

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Extends liquidity runway to at least 12 months

With RCL's monthly cash burn estimated at $260m to $285m, including interest expense and necessary capital expenditures but excluding cash refunds of deposits and inflows from new and existing bookings, the additional capital raise adds approximately seven months to the company's liquidity runway in a zero-revenue environment, William Blair analyst Sharon Zackfia said. This effectively funds the company for at least another 12 months.

Guaranteed by seven ships with $7.7bn book value

The senior notes will mature on June 15, 2023. They will be fully guaranteed on a senior unsecured basis by a newly formed, direct wholly owned subsidiary of the company. This subsidiary will own all the equity interests in the RCL subsidiaries that own seven ships with a total book value of $7.7bn.

The convertible notes will mature on June 15, 2023, unless earlier converted, redeemed pursuant to a tax redemption or repurchased. The initial conversion rate per $1,000 principal amount of convertible notes is 13.8672 shares of common stock, which is equivalent to an initial conversion price of approximately $72.11 per share. This is subject to adjustment in certain circumstances.

25% premium to June 4 stock price

The initial conversion price represents an approximately 25% premium to the Thursday's closing price of $57.69 per share.

The notes will be convertible at the holder's option in certain circumstances. RCL may satisfy its conversion obligation by paying or delivering, at its election, cash, shares of common stock or a combination of cash and shares.

Option for up to $150m in additional convertible notes

RCL also granted certain of the initial purchasers a 13-day option to buy up to an additional $150m in convertible notes. These are expected to be issued on or around June 9.

Net proceeds from the offerings are expected to be used for general corporate purposes, which may include repaying debt.

SeaDream adds second yacht to Norway program on high demand

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SeaDream yacht in a Norwegian Fjord

Mainly Norwegian, Danish travelers

The decision came just days after SeaDream announced the voyages, to start already this month, on SeaDream I. Now SeaDream II will be deployed as well. The market for these cruises is primarily Norwegians and Danes. Travel is allowed between the two countries for residents. Due to current restrictions, non-Norwegian travelers may be required to self-quarantine before boarding.

SeaDream I is scheduled to sail past the Arctic Circle to the Lofoten Islands in 12-day voyages between Oslo and Tromsø. SeaDream II will sail seven-day voyages between Oslo and Bergen. Both will visit Ålesund, Flåm and Olden as well as Skagen, Denmark. On June 27, both ships will sail together from Oslo to Skagen.

'Phones ringing off the hook'

'It has been a very exciting time for our company after pausing sailings in March. We are very happy to see this high demand for our new Norwegian voyages. Our phones have been ringing off the hook from 8 a.m. to midnight with booking requests since the Norwegian voyages were announced,' SeaDream EVP Andreas Brynestad said.

Recently, the crew completed the World Health Organization's official COVID-19 course for hygiene routines and infection management. Passengers and crew will observe social distancing and pass health checks before boarding.

Urgent plea for EU countries to ensure seafarers can transit

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Crew members have had their contracts extended — some by many months — and urgently need to be relieved but it is 'exceedingly difficult' for crew changes to take place in the EU, the European Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA), European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), Cruise Lines International Association and World Shipping Council said in a joint letter to ministers of home affairs and transport.

Need for third country seafarers to obtain visas

The European Commission’s guidelines identify seafarers as essential transport workers whose movement across borders should be facilitated, irrespective of their nationality. Currently the single most important barrier is the inability of third country seafarers to obtain required Schengen visas, ECSA, ETF, CLIA and World Shipping Council said.

Over the next two months between 100,000 and 120,000 third country seafarers will need Schengen visas so they can travel to relieve crew on vessels in EU ports. Around 50% will be Filipino. Around 25% will be applying for visas for the first time, while the remainder will be looking to have visas renewed or already have their details registered in EU Schengen databases.

Overseas EU consulates in labor-supplying countries are either closed or, if operational, may not be able to issue sufficient visas within the required time frame. Member states do not currently have resources available to issue sufficient visas on arrival.

Limited capacity for visa processing

For example, while the re-establishment of commercial flights between Manila and Amsterdam is welcomed, the limited number of visas on arrival that Amsterdam airport is able to process — 65 per day versus the estimated need of 300 per day, according to ECSA and ETF — highlights the problem.

Given the circumstances, no single solution will suffice, ECSA, ETF, CLIA and World Shipping Council said in their letter to ministers for home affairs and transport. They suggested implementing a combination of measures that can be deployed irrespective of whether overseas visa-issuing services are operational.

Issuing more visas on arrival

The groups recommended enabling more visas to be issued on arrival to help compensate for the backlog of applications in the EU missions overseas.

Burden sharing

They also suggested burden sharing, with all EU Schengen member states making temporary arrangements to facilitate visa applications for seafarers to lessen the burden of applications being submitted to only a few member states due to flight connections or ports being available for crew change.

Temporary arrangements should be made for visa applications to be submitted to any EU Schengen member state’s mission in a labor-supplying state, the letter said — not only to the member state in which the crew change and/or entry into Schengen occurs. Member states should issue visas also when entry is for transit to proceed to other states to effect the crew change, since crew changes entail arrangements such as flight connections to an airport in one country with road transport to a port in another, and vice versa.

Temporary EU-level waiver

As well, ECSA, ETF, CLIA and World Shipping Council suggested a temporary EU-level waiver. This would waive visas for crew going ashore — when it is clearly documented they are seafarers traveling for professional reasons. Member states, they said, should be encouraged to temporarily use the exemption found in Article 4 paragraph 1c of the EU Visa Code to cover transiting seafarers with, for example, a restriction of a maximum of five days' stay.

Acceptance of recently used or expired visas

Further, the letter urged countries to consider accepting recently used or expired visas, as countries outside the Schengen area have done. It was acknowledged this may require a legislative measure.

Help from non-Schengen member states

And the groups called for facilitating seafarers’ visas by all EU member states, not only Schengen members. This means requesting non-Schengen member states like Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania to provide the various facilitations requested, including use of waivers.

ECSA, ETF, CLIA and World Shipping Council also strongly urged the European Union’s External Action Service to engage with third countries in promulgating the EU and international efforts for the designation of seafarers as ‘essential workers’ so as to facilitate their movement including for access to medical treatment and shore leave, repatriations and crew changes for EU citizens and those on board EU-flagged or owned vessels.

'These emergency solutions would bring critical relief for many seafarers who have been at sea for many months, employment for those replacing them and support for the maintenance of shipping services that will be vital to the recovery of our economies in the short, medium and long term,' ECSA, ETF, CLIA Europe and World Shipping Council said.