The Australian Government has confirmed it will withdraw its two-year-long ban on international cruising from 17 April 2022.
The Morrison Government confirmed that Australia would not renew its current determination on the pause, set to expire on 17 April, on the basis of medical advice.
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, foreshadowed the announcement this week, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison further indicated the decision was imminent last night on commercial TV.
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Since March 2020, in the wake of the global spread of COVID-19, Australia blocked the entry of all large international cruise vessels into local waters under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
That decision “has been highly effective in preventing and controlling the entry, emergence and spread of COVID-19 in Australian territory,” the government said.
“National Cabinet has confirmed the positive progress by eastern states and the cruise industry to develop appropriate health protocols and common guidelines to support a safe return of cruising.”
Cruise industry mandates, such as passengers being vaccinated, outbreak management plans and COVID-19 safety plans, will help reduce the risk of transmission aboard ships.
“Lifting the cruise ban is consistent with the reopening of Australia’s international border and shows that we have successfully navigated Australia’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Minister for Health, Greg Hunt.
Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews said “The cruise ship industry plays an important role in our tourism sector and forms part of the Morrison Government’s plan to bolster our economic growth as we recover from the pandemic. I can’t wait to see our cruise terminals once again filled with arriving international passengers, getting this important industry ship-shape and back out on the water once more.”
Minister Tehan, said the resumption of cruising in Australia was an important milestone in the Government’s COVID-19 response.
“This is great news for the cruise industry, tourism, the broader economy and the Australians who love to take a cruise holiday,” Tehan said. “The resumption of cruising is another key step forward in the tourism sector’s recovery from COVID-19.
“We look forward to welcoming cruise ships and passengers back to Australian waters,” Tehan added.
CLIA Australian responds
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) welcomed the lifting of the cruise ban and said the industry would continue working with state and territory governments to finalise the extensive health protocols needed before cruising can resume.
“Today’s announcement is a huge breakthrough for more than 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,” said CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz.
“The suspension of cruising over the past two years has cost the Australian economy more than $10 billion and we now have an opportunity to work on a revival.”
Katz said more than 8 million people had already sailed in more than 80 other countries where cruising had resumed, with stringent new health measures in place.
“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 among the most extensive to be found anywhere in world tourism,” Katz said. “These protocols span the entirety of the cruise experience and provide some of the highest possible levels of prevention, detection, and mitigation, including vaccination and testing requirements for all passengers and crew before boarding.”
Katz – who delivered an address to the industry on YouTube (above) – said there was still much preparation to complete before cruise ships could return to Australian waters.
“Cruising involves long lead-times, so it is essential that state governments and health authorities continue to work closely with the industry in the coming weeks to finalise detailed operational plans for resumption,” he said.
CLIA will continue to engage with governments at all levels to review protocols as the public health situation evolves.