BA’s port-of-call protocols highlight the reality of resuming calls

Bermello Ajamil & Partners  (Logo)On Tuesday, Cruise Europe members were fortunate in being the first in Europe to attend a Bermello Ajamil & Partners (BA) presentation webinar on port-of-call protocol options.

What is clear is just how unclear the situation is. What is also clear is that life will be nowhere near normal for transit ports, which will be required to implement some fairly hefty operational changes in the light of Covid-19.

While the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally lifted its no-sail order on October 30, a raft of restrictions have also been announced and no ships are sailing yet. “There was never a single meeting between between the CDC and the cruise lines. They based it on internal knowledge of the disease and the prevention of it,” commented Luis Ajamil, president and Ceo.

BA’s forecast of 39 cruiseships planned to be sailing in November has already been reduced to 27. Many of the lines are talking about resuming in January, to be followed by others in March and April but to get back to anything near full capacity is still a way off. Ajamil said: “Norwegian Cruise Line says it will take six to nine months to put the entire fleet into operation.”

When it comes to the ports, BA showed a slide on the cruise journey from a passenger’s home to disembarkation where shoreside (port) is “the most complex part of the journey”.

Just how complex was highlighted by different cruiselines having different protocols, ports mainly following cruise line protocols but few destinations having any protocols in place at all.

While standardisation is needed, in reality there is nothing anywhere close, partly because there are still so many unknowns. For example Ajamil commented: “We have yet to know if those positive tested [in port] will be able to get back on the vessel or go onshore for quarantine”. One thing he is certain of, however, is that: “If you want to get a common standard it would have to come from the ports.”

The presentation highlighted what just what procedures would need to be put in place. Ajamil acknowledged that for smaller ports and businesses this presents huge challenges, especially given that the resumption will be a slow one.

Despite the welcome news of possible vaccines this week, BA’a view is that social distancing will be the last thing to go. What this means for disembarkation is that it will take two to three times longer, depending on the size of the ship.

BA documented various operating models designed around a bubble ranging from a port bubble, whereby passenger movements are limited to within the port where there may be space for vendors to operate, to an integrated bubble where passengers are allowed free movement if the protocols of the area exceed those of the cruise.

Without going into too much detail, the practicality of welcoming back cruise ships is a “huge undertaking”. Ports and cities will need to, for example, execute different health protocol levels; establish capacities; approve the cruise line plans; develop a bubble plan; certify areas or tours; have infrastructure to operate and create bubbles. What is vital is that all the stakeholders are engaged as “there will likely be conflicting interests”.

As the webinar came to an end, Michael McCarthy, chairman CE, commented: “I think this is going to be a huge issue for most ports of call.”

(Bermello Ajamil & Partners, Cruise Europe)


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