Cruise ships given a further “no sail” order of up to 100 days

CDC issues mandate, potentially pushing back US deployments until mid-July 2020

The battered cruise industry has been dealt another blow after US authorities extended the current “no sail order” on all cruise ships by more than three months.

The newly issued order builds on the 30-day voluntary suspension of US cruise operations that Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) adopted on 14 March 2020. Including the maximum extent of the new order, ships would not be permitted to operate to US ports until mid-July 2020.

On Thursday 9 April 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said the latest measures address the health and safety of crew at sea and would be implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 into the United States.

“We will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic,” Redfield remarked.

The CDC said despite entry restrictions being implemented by the Trump Administration on foreign nationals who has recently travelled to China and Europe, cruise ship travel markedly increases the risk and impact of the COVID-19 outbreak within the United States.

Dozens of cruise ships in limbo off the Florida, USA coastline

Currently, there are approximately 100 cruise ships remaining at sea off the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast of the USA, with nearly 80,000 crew onboard. There are an additional 20 cruise ships at port or anchorage in the United States with known or suspected COVID-19 infection among the crew who remain onboard.

Since CLIA’s voluntary suspension of cruise ship operations a month ago, in line with the earlier No Sail Order, the cruise industry has been working to establish an illness response framework to combat COVID-19 on ships with international crew members who remain on board and at sea.

This latest order ceases operations of cruise ships in waters in which the United States may exert jurisdiction and requires that they develop a comprehensive, detailed operational plan approved by CDC and the USCG to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new order shall continue in operation until the earliest of three situations. Either:

  1. The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency;
  2. The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations; or
  3. 100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

The order includes a range of other protocols for vessels in limbo off the US coastline, including cruise ships not being able to disembark travellers at ports or stations unless authorised, observing health precautions directed by authorities, making ship manifests and logs available, and collecting any specimens for COVID-19 testing.

Last week the CDC named the ships and sailings in the US that were known to have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 of passengers and crew onboard.

Lead image: Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse, earmarked to be home-based in Melbourne from December 2020 to April 2021.

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