CruiseDomestic sailings have cautiously restarted in Japan, beginning with The Nippon Maru and The Asuka II in recent weeks.

Cruise ships in Japan return to the sea

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The Nippon Maru, shown docked at Takeyama Port, has resumed sailings in Japan since late October.
The Nippon Maru, shown docked at Takeyama Port, has resumed sailings in Japan since late October.

Cruise ships in Japan are resuming domestic operations, some eight months since the Covid-19 pandemic brought a halt to cruise ship operations in the country.

According to a report by The Japan Times, the Nippon Maru operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Passenger Lines sailed out of Niihama Port in Ehime on October 25, while NYK Cruises' Asuka II has also resumed services from November 2, departing on a four-day journey out of Yokohama bound for nearby Shimizu Port, in Shizuoka.

In September, the Japan Oceangoing Passenger Ship Association and the Ports & Harbors Association of Japan compiled guidelines for infection prevention measures necessary to resume cruise ship services, the report added.

The guidelines drawn up include checking passengers' health conditions and their travel histories in the two weeks prior to boarding, plus sufficient distancing among passengers on board, utilisation of contract-tracing applications and the use of face masks and disinfectants is encouraged.

The city of Sasebo and Shizuoka Prefecture, which manage the ports of the two ships' respective destinations, are reported have adopted the measures based on the guidelines, with Shizuoka Prefecture also prohibiting general visitors from entering the pier of Shimizu port.

Like in Taiwan and Singapore, which have also permitted domestic cruises to resume, both Nippon Maru and the Asuka II are sailing with reduced capacity.

The Nippon Maru, which has a capacity of 530 people, limited the number of guests to only around 200 and crew members to 100 for the three-day journey, according to The Japan Times.

The report added that Asuka II crew members conducted a two-day drill ahead of its sailing to practise the response protocols required of a potential coronavirus outbreak on the ship, which include isolating and transporting the infected passengers.

The Japan Times report added that the transport ministry is considering supporting infection prevention measures at passenger terminals by subsidising costs for separating passengers, setting up body temperature measuring devices and introducing medical-use tents to house those feeling unwell.

The ministry's aid programme is expected to be launched in fiscal 2021 in order to encourage cruise ship travel.

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