by John Konrad (gCaptain) Today Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced in a new report that cruise ship travel exacerbates the global spread of COVID19 and has extended the CDC No Sail Order through the end of October. This puts into law the self-imposed suspension most cruise lines operating in the US signed early last month.
While this order is fully supported by the Cruise Line International Association, which represents cruise line interests, some CLIA members have already resumed operations in Europe and Asia with uncertain results.
According to today’s CDC announcement, the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread rapidly around the world with no approved treatment or vaccine. By July, the date of the second modification and extension of the No Sail Order, there were over 13 million confirmed cases but today there are a cumulative total of over 33 million cases with almost 1 million deaths worldwide and, even in countries that have managed to slow the rate of transmission, the CDC believes the risks for COVID-19 resurgence remains high.
The CDC also said they support the earlier decision by CLIA to voluntarily suspend cruises “involving US ports” until October 31st but, because not all cruise ship operators are members of CLIA or have made similar commitments, the CDC director signed this order to “ensuring that passenger operations do not resume prematurely”.
This order specifically restricts overnight sailings aboard all commercial, non-cargo, passenger vessels with the capacity to carry more than 250 passengers and crew calling on US Ports.
Only 31 out of the 108 ships (29%) that were in U.S. waters at the start of the No Sail Order extension in April remain in U.S. waters today. The CDC has allowed cruise ship operators to disembark and repatriate crew members from cruise ships if they follow strict travel guidelines. To date, cruise ships have disembarked and repatriated nearly nine thousand crew members, including 329 U.S. citizens, from US ports.
In recent months the CDC has conducted implementation checks on the eleven cruise ships operating in U.S. jurisdiction to review compliance with No Sail Orders and found that operators were adhering to the requirements. The cruise industry has also taken additional steps on its own.
Last week operators detailed 74 steps, including enhanced sanitation practices, controlling shore excursions, and better protection for crew members, to protect guests once cruises resume.
The industry is also investing in new sanitary systems and technology to monitor and control the virus. For example, the Carnival Corporation recently announced that technology provider Geollect will be supporting operations with the same software analysis and tracking tools they built for the Royal Navy and insurers to unlock big data to improve awareness and monitor the pandemic.
However, despite these investments and a limited return to operations outside the United States, Cruise operators have lost about half to two-thirds of their value so far this year. Stock shares rose slightly on this news today for some of the largest operators but remain at their lowest price in decades.