The Australian Government has announced that the ban on foreign flagged cruise ships is to be extended until 17th February.
Health Minister, Greg Hunt, made the announcement, blaming the Omicron virus variant.
“The extension of these arrangements made by the Governor General was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer,” Minister Hunt said.
“Continuation of these arrangements will allow the important measures currently in place to continue, as the Government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant,” he continued.
He added that the Government continues to work constructively with the cruise ship industry, with whom we remain actively engaged alongside state and territory governments to enable a phased resumption of cruising in Australia on the basis of medical advice.
As part of this work, the Government will continually review, on a monthly basis, whether the current restrictions on cruise ships can be safely lifted or amended.
The cruise industry’s body, Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA) outlined the devastating effects of the move. CLIA has been working for months to try and get the ban lifted.
CLIA Managing Director Australasia, Joel Katz (pictured), said Australia was the only major cruise market in the world without an agreed plan to resume cruising, which is ordinarily worth more than Aus$5 bill a year to the Australian economy.
“The suspension of cruising has been devastating for the 18,000 Australians who depend on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, entertainers, port workers and many other industry suppliers,” Katz said.
“In other countries close to 5 mill people have already sailed successfully under the cruise industry’s extensive new health protocols. We need federal and state governments to use the coming weeks for genuine discussions with the cruise industry so we can plan a similar revival in Australia.
“Cruising has changed enormously in response to the pandemic and the work our industry has done with medical experts internationally has resulted in health protocols that are successful in mitigating the risks of Covid-19.
“With vaccination rates increasing and borders opening, we need agreement on the way forward throughout Australia so there can be a careful revival of cruise tourism in communities around the country,” he added.
Katz also said it would take several months’ preparation before cruise ships could return to Australian waters.
“Cruising involves long lead-times, so it is essential that the industry can work closely with all governments and health authorities to establish detailed operational plans ahead of resumption,” Katz said.
Local reports suggested that the earliest a cruise ship was likely to sail in Australian waters is May next year – which is at the beginning of the Southern Hemisphere winter.