At least one small ship cruise line will be allowed to dock at a southeastern Alaska port this month, Ketchikan city council has said, in a move which reflected the ongoing balance that needed to be struck between medical caution and economic necessity. On the other hand, Haines reached the oppossite conclusion.
On early June, Ketchikan’s city council approved a plan from small ship operator American Cruise Lines to dock at the end of this month. According to Ketchikan Port and Harbours Director Steve Corporon, this decision would ”check out what seems to be a very good plan on a very small number instead of practising on the first 4,000 passenger ship next year or the year after.”
The ship in question is American Cruise Lines’ American Constellation. The company plans to have its passengers and crew tested for COVID-19 before boarding, preferably in their home community. If that is not possible, the passengers can be tested on arrival to Juneau, the departure port for the late June cruise. Passengers would be kept in quarantine until their results came back.
Now, port communities in Southeast Alaska have been cooperating to develop a set of protocols for cruise ships operating during the ongoing pandemic. However, Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon thinks that it is unlikely that all of the port communities would agree on a set of criteria before American Cruise Lines makes a decision to dock later this month.
This is because smaller communities are worried about how they would be able to isolate positive cases or quarantine those potentially exposed.
Under this light, Haines, a far smaller community, reached the opposite conclusion to Ketchikan. Namely, its local assembly voted to ask American Cruise Lines to postpone its request to call at Haines indefinitely.
Community leaders also indicated that the economic benefits of welcoming a 170-passenger ship might not be worth the risk. What is more, social distancing could create additional disincentives for shore excursion operators.