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Port Canaveral CEO disappointed with CDC’s plan to return from cruise




BREVARD COUNTY, Florida The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its next phase of technical guidance on Friday evening as part of its conditional navigation control framework for cruise lines, News 6 partner Florida Today Reports.

But it’s still unclear when cruises can actually resume. Major cruise lines have not sailed to the United States since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Port Canaveral CEO John Murray said he was disappointed that these directions for the cruise industry appeared to be nothing more than a gradual step in a wide-ranging process to resume passenger crossings to the States. United, with no definitive or target start date.

The final phase of the order requires cruise lines to enter into agreements in the ports where they intend to operate; implement routine crew tests; and develop plans incorporating vaccination strategies to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 by crew and passengers.

The CDC said this phase, the second conditional sail order issued in October 2020, provided technical instructions on:

  • Increase from weekly to daily frequency of reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses.

  • Implement routine testing of all crews based on the condition of each vessel.

  • Updated the color coding system used to classify the condition of ships in relation to COVID-19.

  • Decreased the time it takes for a red vessel to turn green from 28 to 14 days, depending on the availability of onboard testing, routine screening protocols and daily reports.

  • Create planning material for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure that cruise lines have the infrastructure to handle a COVID-19 outbreak on their ships, including healthcare capabilities health facilities and housing to isolate those infected and quarantine those who are exposed.

  • Establish a plan and schedule for the vaccination of crew and port personnel.

The CDC said the next phase of the conditional navigation order will include simulated test trips that will allow crew and port personnel to practice the new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.

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But Murray said he expected more at this point from the CDC, which initially issued a sailing ban order in March 2020, then replaced it with a conditional sailing order in October.

For a year now, we’ve been working closely with our cruise partners and directly with the CDC to find a way forward for the cruise’s return from Port Canaveral, Murray said.

He noted that the CDC also announced on Friday that vaccinated Americans can travel safely, including overseas.

The CDC said that based on recent studies assessing the actual effects of vaccination, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people be able to travel at low risk to themselves. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last recommended dose of the vaccine.

Port Canaveral had been the second busiest cruise port in the world, behind PortMiami, based on passenger volume. Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean had ships based in Port Canaveral, and MSC Cruises planned to join that lineup last fall.

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Murray said Port Canaveral lost $ 87.6 million in cruise-related revenue from March 2020 to February 2021. Before the pandemic, cruises and cruise-related parking accounted for about 80% of the port’s revenue.

In a statement, the CDC said it is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising when it is safe to do so, following the phased approach outlined in the ‘conditional navigation order.

COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical to the safe resumption of passenger operations, the CDC said. As more people are fully immunized, the phased approach allows CDC to incorporate these advances into planning for the resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so.

The CDC has recommended all eligible port staff, cruise passengers and crew get vaccinated against COVID-19 when they have one.

It is difficult to navigate in a safe and responsible manner during a global pandemic, the CDC said. While cruising still poses some risk of transmission of COVID-19, following the phases of the Conditional Sailing Order will ensure that cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a manner that protects crew members. , passengers and port personnel, especially with emerging variants of COVID-19 of concern.

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The CDC said it will continue to update its guidance and recommendations to specify basic safety standards and public health interventions, based on the best available scientific evidence.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and U.S. Representative Bill Posey, whose congressional district includes Port Canaveral in recent weeks, have all urged the CDC to pave the way for a return to sailing. American ports.

During a March 26 roundtable in Port Canaveral on shutting down the cruise industry, DeSantis and Moody said the state would consider legal action to force the resumption of cruises if the federal government continued to delay the cruise. process.

On March 24, the Cruise Lines International Association, which accounts for 95% of the world’s ocean cruise capacity, called on the CDC to lift its conditional sailing command framework and allow planning for a phased resumption of operations. cruise from US ports by early July.

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CLIA said the early July deadline was in line with President Joe Bidens’ forecast for when the United States will be closer to normal.

Over the past eight months, a very controlled cruise recovery has continued in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific with nearly 400,000 passengers to date sailing in more than 10 major cruise markets, said Kelly Craighead , President and CEO of CLIA, in a statement. These trips have been successfully completed with state-of-the-art protocols that have effectively mitigated the spread of COVID-19. Additional crossings are planned in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean later this spring and summer.

Craighead said the conditional navigation order was out of date and did not reflect the industry’s proven progress and success in other parts of the world, or the advent of vaccines, and unfairly treated cruises differently.

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She said cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries. Cruising is the only sector of the US economy that remains off-limits, even as most others have opened or have continued to operate throughout the pandemic.

According to CLIA, restarting cruises as part of the broader travel industry will provide a much needed boost to the US economy.

CLIA estimated that the cruise industry supported nearly 450,000 American jobs and contributed more than $ 55.5 billion a year, before the pandemic.

Based on economic modeling from research firm BREA, more than 300,000 jobs have been lost in the United States due to the suspension of cruises.

The majority of those affected are self-employed business owners or individuals employed by small and medium-sized businesses, including travel agents, taxi drivers, port workers, porters and longshoremen, as well as company workers. airlines, hotels and restaurants, CLIA said in a statement. .

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Locally, Port Canaveral reduced its staff by 43%, from 268 positions to 153. This was done through a combination of 68 permanent layoffs, 17 unpaid leaves and not filling. 30 positions left vacant due to retirement or employees who have taken jobs elsewhere.

These numbers do not include unionized Port Canaveral longshoremen who are unemployed. They are not port employees, but work at the port loading and unloading baggage and cruise ship supplies.

On March 30, US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow released a statement urging the gradual resumption of cruise operations as quickly as possible.

The standard of proof should be exceptionally high for rules that effectively distinguish certain industries while other parts of the economy are allowed to reopen, Dow said. The restrictions have had a disproportionate impact on the travel industry and our millions of workers, and the rule banning cruises is particularly specific. Finding ways to reopen is economically imperative, and it is clear that a layered approach to health and safety makes it possible to resume travel safely.

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Although some cruise lines have announced a few cruises for those who have received COVID-19 vaccines, the CLIA says it currently does not have a vaccine policy.

The organization and its members are exploring a viable approach to how to envision vaccinations, once widely available, under robust protocols, CLIA said in a statement.

About 30.7% of people in the United States, or 101.80 million people, have received at least one injection of COVID-19, according to CDC data. About 17.5% of people, or 57.98 million, are fully vaccinated, either with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or with both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

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