The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new Framework for Conditional Sailing Order that introduces a phased approach for the resumption of passenger cruises in US waters.
Accordingly, the new order effective today, October 30, establishes a framework of actionable items for the cruise line industry to follow toward resuming passenger operations, which would start with restrictions including on the length of the cruise.
The new Framework requires a phased approach to restarting passenger operations and will require an unspecified amount of time before the first cruises will sail. The CDC cites the continued risks from the virus, its belief regarding the dangers of the transmission of the virus aboard cruise ships, and the “need for additional time for the cruise industry to test the effectiveness of measures to control potential COVID-19 transmission on board cruise ships with passengers without burdening public health.”
It is advised that
- The cruise ship lines must demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine, and isolation, and social distancing requirements to protect crew members while they build the laboratory capacity needed to test crew and future passengers.
- The cruise lines need to submit plans to the CDC and if their ships have been away from US waters resubmit the CDC’s Enhanced Data Collection paperwork.
- If crew has come aboard from other ships they must demonstrate the crew came from a COVID-19 free environment or if they came from shore have been tested for the virus.
- The cruise lines also need to make arrangements with local health authorities and the ports. Once the ships have completed these steps, they can receive COVID-19 conditional sailing certificates.
In addition, it is stated that subsequent phases required before commercial operations can resume include simulated voyages with volunteers playing the role of passengers to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk.
The ships will operate mock sailings that include embarkation, disembarkation, COVID-19 tests, onboard operations, including food and entertainment, to show social distancing and hygiene protocols are being met. The ships will also have to make a call at their private islands to demonstrate those procedures.
Quarantine and mitigation practices and protocols will also be tested. The cruise lines will submit documentation for review to the CDC and certified statements as the process continues.
When the ships complete all preparatory steps, the CDC has restrictions and requirements as cruising resumes, such as limiting cruises to 7-days or less, requiring COVID-19 testing before boarding and disembarkation for all passengers and crew, and maintaining social distancing, hand hygiene, and face covering restrictions as well as notifying passengers of any CDC warnings or advisories. The CDC also retains the right to end a cruise immediately if it determines a threshold of COVID-19 is detected aboard the ship.
In reference to the new Framework, Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA, stated that
We look forward to reviewing the new order and are optimistic that it is an important step toward returning our ships to service from US ports.
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