Ship sail

First cruise ship visit to Sydney since 2020

Pacific Explorer will be the first cruise ship to dock in an Australian port since the federal government’s pandemic-triggered ban in March 2020.

P&O Australia’s $400 million luxury liner, which has a capacity of nearly 2,000 passengers, is due to arrive in Sydney on Monday morning.

Explorer’s return to full service will coincide with that of Ponant’s Le Laperouse, which will begin operations between Darwin and Broome on April 28, joining local operators in time for the Kimberley cruise season.

NSW, Victoria and Queensland have set out testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew ahead of returning ships.

However, Tasmania is still considering whether such a move is safe for the island state.

Peak Body Cruise Lines International Association Australia says lifting the ban will mark “a carefully managed resumption of operations” in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 jobs.

Cruise Lines’ Australasian managing director Joel Katz said that before the pandemic, more than a million Australians a year took an ocean cruise.

“We now have the opportunity to return to sailing and revive an industry that was worth over $5 billion a year to the Australian economy,” he said.

“While no executive is immune to COVID-19, new cruise industry protocols provide one of the highest possible levels of prevention, detection and mitigation.”

The move comes despite COVID-19 infections remaining high.

More than 32,000 new cases were reported across the country on Sunday, along with 17 virus-related deaths, although seven of the eight announced by officials in Western Australia are historic.

The ACT has not yet released figures for the Easter period.

There are currently over 409,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Some 3,079 patients are in hospital, of whom 137 have been admitted to the ICU and 30 require ventilation.

Meanwhile, Labor leader Chris Bowen is self-isolating after testing positive.

“I was looking forward to a few days of campaigning in the Queensland and Brisbane areas but it won’t be,” he tweeted on Saturday.

Labor Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally and Home Secretary Karen Andrews contracted the virus last week.

Elsewhere, Health Victoria is monitoring the new BA.4 or BA.5 Omicron variant after samples were confirmed from a catchment in Tullamarine, north of Melbourne.

The subvariant has recently been detected in a small number of cases in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Denmark, the UK and Germany, but is not considered a cause for concern.