The government has given tentative backing for the resumption of UK cruises if companies agree to shoulder the costs of any repatriation needed.
However, the ban will remain in place while the UK is at a high Covid Alert Level, meaning a resumption is unlikely ahead of 2021.
The conclusion of the Report of the Global Travel Taskforce is that a phased approach to restart should be implemented “as soon as it is safe to do so”, although it gives no guidance on timelines.
The report said that “it may be appropriate to resume cruises when the national alert is at level 3 and when a move to level 2 is being considered by the chief medical officer.”
It continued: “The locations, proportion of the population and associated restrictions on any areas in higher tiers of restrictions would need to be taken into consideration.”
The report, attributed to transport secretary Grant Shapps and health minister Matt Hancock, added operators would need to demonstrate compliance with Clia’s protocols “including formal commitment to accepting responsibility for repatriation costs and protocols”.
Clia’s guidance is that “operators are responsible for leading in the management and implementation of repatriation of passengers and seafarers. That is, arranging flights or other transport, potentially for symptomatic passengers, to the UK when required”.
In a joint statement, Clia and the UK Chamber of Shipping called for a firm timeline from the government.
“Whilst we welcome the publication of today’s report and the government’s broad commitment to restarting the cruise sector, there is still no certainty about when an industry that employs 88,000 people and is worth £10 billion a year to the economy can restart.
“The government must now set a timeline to safely start domestic cruises in early 2021, and international cruises to destinations for which travel corridors are open from spring 2021.
“As the government rightly acknowledges, the industry needs this clarity and confidence to start planning for operational restart of cruise ships which can take up to three months. The government must also remove the outdated Foreign Office travel advice on international cruising.”