Nassau Cruise Port Limited (NCP) Chief Executive Officer Mike Maura said yesterday he was looking at the further extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) no-sail order as a glass half-full, as it shows confidence that the cruise industry’s improvements in health and safety protocols are on the right path.
Maura also outlined a three-phase port reopening plan that would be implemented to minimize health risks for port personnel, visitors and stakeholders.
The CDC’s no-sail order for cruise lines was initially extended from July 24 to September 15, but will now expire at the end of September.
“I think it’s important to note that during these headwinds we’ve still been sailing forward, we are making progress and we’re not sitting idle. What we are doing is positioning our Bahamas, positioning our New Providence to come out the other side of this tropical storm and be in calm waters and be a destination that people want to come and visit. We have so much to feel blessed for and we’re excited about that. But we do have challenges in front of us,” Maura said while addressing a Ministry of Tourism webinar on the cruise and maritime sector yesterday.
“We’re all familiar with the fact that on July 16 the CDC extended its no-sail order to September 30. Now while that may be disappointing to many people, honestly I looked at that as the glass half-full because the CDC could have said that it’s until December 31 and they didn’t, they just added another 15 days to the voluntary suspension that the cruise industry had already implemented. So to me what that says is the CDC sees that the cruise industry is making necessary improvements and enhancements to its health and safety protocols and the cruise industry is definitely moving in the right direction, which is why the CDC only extended it by 15 days and not by months.”
The three-phase port reopening plan begins immediately after ships return to Nassau. The first phase, called “Recovery”, calls for all communication between the port, vessels and government agencies to be conducted manually; passengers must remain aboard ships while in port unless they have a pre-arranged tour that has been approved by a cruise line; and only sanitized, pre-booked tour vehicles would be permitted alongside cruise ships to collect and return passengers.
Phase two, called the “Transitional Phase”, begins once safety, disinfection, transfer and communication protocols are established and widespread testing is underway. That phase calls for the staggering of vessel arrivals and departures; the separation of cruise passengers by the cruise line and the use of face masks at the port facility; and sanitized buses and taxis would be permitted to access the port.
The final phase, entitled “Vaccine Available”, would allow for passengers to walk about freely at the port facility while social distancing and the wearing of masks will be promoted; and all taxis, tour vehicles and excursion vessels must be cleaned and sanitized before passengers enter.
“I think an important fact, however, is that when you consider that according to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), approximately one billion people fly into the US each year compared to less than 30 million people taking a cruise worldwide, and you look at Atlanta airport as an example – that’s the busiest airport in the world with over 100 million people annually – in my opinion the CDC’s health-related oversight will undoubtedly assist the cruise industry in achieving even greater resilience. But it is interesting that other transport sectors don’t seem to be receiving the degree of review,” Maura said.