Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Local cruise players urge retraining as sector remains closed

Published:Tuesday | July 14, 2020 | 12:05 AM

Local participants in the cruise shipping business recommend serious efforts to retool the sector as US-based cruise companies decided voluntarily to extend the suspension of operations, despite the expiry on July 24 of the ‘No Sail Order’, issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), in a statement issued on their website https://cruising.org/ on June 19, said that the voluntary suspension on cruise operations from US ports will continue until September 15, 2020.

According to Harry Maragh, chairman and CEO of Lannaman and Morris Shipping Limited, one of the largest local players, “the suspension came as a surprise” but there was little anyone could do. He noted that during this downtime resulting from the suspension, “Jamaica has a good chance to overhaul its operations and retrain staff as “we expect there will be changes in the way they [the lines] operate”. Maragh explained that before the suspension, there were challenges, and Jamaica now has a good chance to be the number one cruise destination in the Caribbean and Central America.

In its statement, CLIA stated: “Although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States.” It added: “This voluntary suspension applies to all CLIA members to which the No Sail Order applied (vessels with capacity to carry 250 persons or more).”

Off Season

Speaking on behalf of Gateway Shipping International, another local player in the cruise sector, General Manager Loxley Tulloch said “at the moment, we are in the off season, which runs from April up until November. As such, the effects are mitigated since, during this period, we experience an 80 per cent reduction in vessel activity. Despite this happening during a period of reduced activity, however, the impact is still significant as we still have the expense of maintaining a presence in the cruise ports. Hopefully, a September resumption of cruise operations from US ports will facilitate a normal resumption of the upcoming winter season”.

Echoing Tulloch, Maragh explained that the suspension has impacted the maritime industry by way of staff reduction and revenue losses. “As a major player in the industry, you can well understand that our revenues have been impacted, and while we have not done lay-offs, we have taken steps to reduce costs,” said Maragh.

He called for a solution to harassment and the need for training of workers who interface with visitors, to ensure they feel more at home. “Government is aware of the challenges in the cruise sector and efforts must be made to curtail harassment of visitors, and attractions must improve their services; for example, with First- World technology comparable to others in major tourist destinations.”

Tulloch argued that during the suspension, investments are to be made to have “adequate measures in place to combat the spread of COVID-19”. He cited examples of measures being undertaken at cruise terminals served by Gateway Shipping, such as establishing quarantine offices and isolation facilities. “Any investment in these measures now would also benefit us in the event of any future outbreak,” said Tulloch.

While there is the anticipation for a resumption of cruises, Tulloch shared concerns towards a reopening, highlighting matters regarding the “economic and social fallout due to extended suspension in the sector”.

He explained that there are thousands of cruise workers directly affected, with thousands more who are also indirectly impacted negatively. He also mentioned his concerns regarding adequate preparation for a resumption, such as testing protocols, safety measures, training of front-line tourism workers, and maintaining strict pre-clearance protocols for arriving vessels.

CLIA, in their statement, said that “member cruise lines will continually evaluate the evolving situation and make a determination as to whether a further extension is necessary”.

Readers who are interested to read the full statement issued by CLIA can visit https://cruising.org/en/news-and-research/press-room/2020/june/clia-anno....