Ship sail

Cruise Lines Welcome Reversal of Ban | the lawyer

politics, federal politics

Cruise lines have welcomed the government’s decision to allow ships to return to Australia from April, calling it a big step forward. Cruise ships have been banned since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be able to return from April 17 with additional safety measures in place. New mitigation measures will include passengers to be double-vaccinated, as well as improved pre-arrival reporting and risk identification, as well as stress testing for emergency responses. Carnival Australia cruise line president Marguerite Fitzgerald said the decision to reopen was a significant breakthrough for the industry. “The uncertainty of the past two years has been replaced by the hope and belief that the lifting of the cruise ban will finally herald the return of cruise operations to Australia,” Ms Fitzgerald said. “Experience overseas, where hundreds of cruise ships have returned to service…confirmed that cruising can operate safely in the new environment with comprehensive health protocols.” Ms Fitzgerald said the move meant the company’s seven cruise lines, including P&O Cruises, could start working to prepare for the return of the ships. She hoped to see P&O resume operations from the end of May this year. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the decision to resume cruising and let the current ban expire on April 17 was based on health advice. “The lifting of the cruise ban is consistent with the reopening of Australia’s international border and demonstrates our success in managing Australia’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr Hunt. In 2019, more than 600,000 cruise ship passengers were welcomed to Australia from nearly 350 ships. International cruise ships will still need to meet all public health requirements of the states and territories in which they dock. Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said the move would mean a boost for overseas visitors. “This is great news for the cruise industry, tourism, the wider economy and Australians who enjoy taking cruise vacations,” Mr Tehan said. “The resumption of cruising is another key step in the recovery of the tourism sector from COVID-19.” Cruise Lines International Associations Australasian chief executive Joel Katz said the decision would also be good news for the 18,000 people who depend on cruise tourism. “The suspension of cruises over the past two years has cost the Australian economy over $10 billion and now we have the opportunity to work towards recovery,” he said. “Cruising has changed tremendously in response to the pandemic and the work our industry has done with medical experts internationally has resulted in health protocols that are the most extensive.” The end of the cruise ship ban comes as experts have expressed concern over a new sub-variant of Omicron that has been detected in Australia. Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett told Sky News the new subvariant was more transmissible than the original Omicron variant which spread across the country over the summer. However, she said the vaccine effectiveness rates between different Omicron variants were quite similar. “Our efforts will still be significant, but we will see the numbers go up a bit,” she said. Australian Associated Press