CruiseCruiseWorld Asia 2021 brought together regional cruise leaders to discuss ways for the safe resumption of cruising in the face of an ever-changing post-pandemic world.

Safe sailings key to Southeast Asia’s cruise resumption

Cruise regulators and port operators stress the importance of aligning safety protocols to pave the way for cruise resumption in the region.
Cruise regulators and port operators stress the importance of aligning safety protocols to pave the way for cruise resumption in the region.

Two years into the pandemic, leaders of the Southeast Asia cruise industry are optimistic about resuming cruises even as Omicron and other new variants continue to disrupt plans and throw up unexpected surprises.

Ensuring consistent safety protocols are essential, concurred the leaders who were speaking at CruiseWorld Asia 2021, held 14 December.

“It’s fairly clear that cruises are not about zero risk. It’s not about risk elimination, it’s about risk mitigation,” opined Annie Chang, director of cruise policy & planning group at Singapore Tourism Board (STB), which created the world’s first Cruise Safe certification.

This approach has worked well so far for the island city-state, which has seen close to 270 sailings since 2 November serving over 380,000 passengers and is considered to be a role model in the region for restarting cruises.

According to Chang, what’s most important is continually reviewing requirements to ensure that we are not “living with 2020 standards as we go into 2022”.

Echoing her sentiments, Ministry of Transport Malaysia’s undersecretary of Maritime Division Mohamad Halim bin Ahmed believes it is important to learn from past mistakes as Malaysia readies itself to resume domestic cruising on 22 December at 50% capacity.

Living with the pandemic

Citing the example of how it was previously thought necessary to quarantine the whole ship when one positive case was discovered, he explained that such extreme measures are no longer realistic due to the ever-changing nature of the virus and the need to balance public health with economic priorities.

Instead, Malaysia’s cruise authorities now implement safeguards such as having sick bays and isolation wards onboard ships, segregated boarding times and pre-departure saliva tests.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel since it’s worked successfully in Singapore,” said Dato’ Sasedharan Vasudevan, CEO of Penang Port.

In the same vein, PT Pelabuhan Indonesia (Persero)’s department head of passenger & RoRo service Rahardian Zebedianto emphasised the need for aligning health protocols across the region so that cruising can restart safely and sustainably.

He said, “Before, we had discussed with STB to implement their protocol in Benoa Port. For a start, Pelindo will be recommending Benoa for pilot cruise resumption in Indonesia, hopefully in 2022.”

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