Cruise Europe port members offer what they can given coronavirus restrictions

Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 10:56 by ce-press

Since the Cruise Europe coronavirus newsletter on March 12, there has been a flurry of announcements from cruiselines that operations will be suspended for varying periods of time.

Indeed on March 13 Cruise Lines International Association announced that ocean-going cruiselines would be voluntarily and temporarily suspending cruiseship operations from US ports of call for 30 days as public health officials and the US Government continue to address COVID-19.

What this means is that there are a great many ships that require berthage as the lines ride out the coronavirus pandemic. Worldwide there are borders closing and ports either closing or refusing to accept the ships.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, for example closed over the weekend forcing four ships to extend their voyages to Florida. Australia has closed its ports to cruiseships but is working with lines to facilitate disembarkations at ports such as Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.

As at March 17 Norwegian Jewel was still at sea having sailed from Sydney on a South Pacific cruise but found Fiji had closed its port whilst cruiseships in South America are facing long ocean voyages, for example back to California, to disembark passengers.

In a recent statement the FCCA and CLIA said that they were confident that all current cruises would be concluded by March 30.

Closer to home, Cruise Europe (CE) members too are also struggling to cope with the circumstances as the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cruise industry unfolds. As CE chairman Michael McCarthy comments: “ As an industry we are all learning very valuable lessons and the challenge going forward will be how to implement changes in a coordinated manner working together.”

CE’s first initiative in this respect is to provide information on what ports are open and those that are willing and able to provide lay-by facilities for the ships that are now coming out of service.

Whilst ensuring that the safety of all the staff and community in the ports and destinations is a priority, the ports are working diligently to provide services and help to ensure that the industry will return stronger once this pandemic is contained.

After in-depth internal discussions, the Port of Amsterdam has decided it is, regrettably, not able to accommodate cruiseships on lay-by. It believes that the health risks for crew members is too high in The Netherlands and even in Europe - being at the heart of the pandemic - at this moment. If there is a corona outbreak on board, it will affect the port’s health care too. “Whilst understanding the problems of the cruiselines and the strong need for facilities to ‘park’ their ships until they are able to continue sailing and, as partners in the same industry, it has been a hard decision,” comments Alma Prins-Droog, commercial manager cruise & super yachts Port of Amsterdam.  

The Port of Bayonne is unable to offer facilities as all its quays are busy with conventional cargo from its regular clients, from whom it expects similar requests for lay-bys, explains Olivier Fayola, sales manager Port of Bayonne.

The Port of Bordeaux is not accepting any cruiseships into the port currently even if there are only crew onboard. “The national lockdown will make the situation very difficult and nearly impossible to deal with if there are people on board,” explains Laurence Bouchardie, head of marketing department Atlantic Port of Bordeaux. Today (March 18) she adds: “There are discussions right now between port authorities and the government about if and how French ports could accommodate cruiseships while their operations are suspended. The idea is to have the same guidelines and rules in the different ports. Whilst right now Bordeaux cannot welcome cruiseships, because of the lockdown, this might evolve.”

As of March 17, Bremerhaven is open for business and has had many requests for berths. Meyer Werft is still planning to bring P&O Cruises’ Iona to Columbuskaje for final fitting, possibly before April. “Depending on how this develops we are in contact with our cruiselines to provide them with berths,” explains Andrea Kamjunke, Columbus Cruise Centre Bremerhaven (CCCB), who explains that the situation is being evaluated every few hours. “Basically we are fully booked for the next few weeks already, provided the authorities allow it”. However she adds that: “Clear guidance and regulations from health ministry and authorities” need to be implemented in order for CCCB to help the cruiselines in the present situation. Columbus Cruise Center Wismar is also open for business as of March 17. However, construction works at the cruise berth prevent ships docking there at present.

“Capital Cruising [CC] is helping a number of our valued cruiseline customers at a very difficult time for the industry. We are currently providing safe and suitable river and inner berth locations for Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Saga, Viking and Fred Olsen across our Edinburgh and London Ports (Tilbury, see below). These vessels are our regular customers and we are supporting them while their ships are not operational,” says Robert Mason, head of cruising CC. Balmoral is in lay-by in Edinburgh with the rest of the Fred Olsen fleet due to follow in the coming weeks according to Mason.

Fredericia would like to hear what cruiseships would like to come into the port. Line Tange, cruise manager ADP, says: “I would need to have an email from each cruiseline asking [about docking] . We are already in contact with one of the Danish agents regarding this.”

The Port of Gothenburg is in operation as usual. It is a designated quarantine port in Sweden which means it needs to have all berths available in case a vessel seeks quarantine. “This means that we unfortunately cannot offer any cruiseships lay-by berths,” says Martin Eskelinen, cruise operation manager Gothenburg Port Authority.

Hamburg is accepting cruiseships for disembarkation and also to wait in the port. There are six places available for all type of ships. “We do have several requests for different periods of time. In three cases we do have normal cruise terminals, for the other three we asked commercial piers,” explains Sacha Rougier, managing director Cruise Gate Hamburg. AIDAaura and AIDAcara are already being accommodated. “Hamburg will stay open for normal container traffic for evident logistic reasons. The port will accept all requests for parking and will try to find a place for them. As a terminal operator, we are in daily contact with the harbour master”. To allow ships to stay in port, 24/24h security is being set up around the ship. The ships are linked to the terminals and piers with gangway or passenger boarding bridge 24/24h with the CGH team being on call 24/24h.

Eidfjord in Hardangerfjord is accepting cruiseships but no passengers or crew are allowed onshore. One ship of up to 360m in length can be accommodated until further notice. Provisions can be bought from nearby suppliers or Bergen and free water, up to 500m3, is available. Providing supplies and security would be implemented as extra measures. A minimum of seven days’ notice is required, according to Helge Moller, Cruise Destination Hardangerfjord.

The municipality of Harlingen is looking into the possibility of providing lay-up for cruiseships but this has to be decided under strict guidelines of the government of The Netherlands. “As soon as we receive the outcome of the request we will inform you accordingly,” comment Kathe Kuperus & Janneke Nieuwhof, managing directors Cruise Port Harlingen.

The Port of Helsingborg can study case-to-case in terms of offering cruiselines space for one to two ships alongside for a longer period until normality resumes,” says Mark Widen, cruise executive Port of Helsingborg. Size and for how long needs to be studied and this is subject to changes and negotiation. 

The Port of Kristiansand has implemented guidelines to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 virus. The port remains open and operational. Shore leave and crew change however is not allowed. National guidelines for crew change are awaited. “We ask lines or their agent in Norway to contact us directly regarding lay-by or waiting-berth capacity,” says Matthias Eder, port operations Kristansand Havn.

Port of La Rochelle is not able to accommodate any cruiseships for lay-by as it has no dedicated berth. All the commercial berths are being used for normal operations, according to Marie-Madeleine Guegan, Port Atlantique La Rochelle.

Leknes/Vestvagoy does not have suitable quays to take cruiseships on lay-by. “We are a small municipality and are in a demanding situation now with the coronavirus hanging over us. We have talked to the municipality doctors and they advise against getting more people here now and we do also have only a small local hospital. Due to the situation we are in, we have asked all tourists who are in Lofoten to go home,” explains Kjell Jakobsen, harbour master Vestvagoy. “We strongly regret that we do not have accessible quays for cruiseship storage. We hope the situation will resolve soon,” he adds.

Lerwick Port Authority is open for shipping and has confirmed that any requests for layby at Lerwick Harbour will be considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account vessel requirements.

Cruise passengers and crew cannot disembark in Portuguese ports from March 14 to April 9, except for Portuguese citizens and foreign people living in Portugal. There is an exemption for special cases, after being authorised by the National Health Authority. Cruiseships can berth Portuguese ports for provisions and maintenance. These rules are for continental ports of Portugal. Since March 14 Lisbon has received Black Watch for provisions and fuel and yesterday Marella Celebration for bunkering and disembarking an injured woman, who needed surgery, and her husband. Ana Lourenco, cruise department Port of Lisbon, says: “The impact is difficult to calculate at the moment since it depends on the evolution of the situation but we expect to loose more than 80% of the foreseen traffic. We have already received 48,000 of 678,000 passengers foreseen, and 32 of 377 calls. “Governments must be alerted to the humanitarian problem that refusing to receive the ships and allowing the passengers to disembark can cause. We cannot leave people onboard and not allow them to go to their homes, to their families. This is how we all can help cruiselines”.

Currently there are no conventional or expedition ships in Longyearbyen Svalbard. “All planned cruises are on hold and vessels are staying on the mainland until further notice,” explains Eva Britt Kornfeldt Visit Svalbard. The expedition cruise season was supposed to start at the beginning of April, and the conventional cruise season in mid June. At present no crew or passengers are allowed on shore. National legislation and guidelines are being followed.

Nordfjordeid cannot welcome cruiseships at present. The local municipality still has zero people infected by the coronavirus, according to Eli Forde Aarskog, marketing manager Port of Nordfjordeid. “They want it to continue like this as long as possible. In addition they use this ‘window’ to plan for a period when the virus is also in this region.” Nordfjordeid is due to start the cruise season in May. It still hopes and plans for this. 

Nordfjord can have one ship with no size limitation alongside the pier until the cruise season begins. Crew will have no opportunity to go ashore during the current situation. For those interested, contact should be made with the Port of OldenLoen, explains Solve Oldeide, operating manager port authority Nordfjord Havn.

All ports in Norway are closed for passenger transport until further notice. The Port of Oslo has no available berth for vessels which are intended to be laid up,” says Rune Aarset, Port of Oslo/City of Oslo.

Following the recent publication of the Joint Order of the Portuguese Ministries of Interior, Health, and Infrastructure and Housing, the Leixoes Port Authority implement the interdiction on disembarkation and land permits for passengers and crew at Porto Cruise Terminal, Port of Leixoes, except for national citizens. This will not affect disembarkation in exceptional cases, subject to authorisation from the health authority. Cruiseships are allowed to dock at national ports for supply and maintenance. These prohibitions took effect from 00:00 on March 14 2020 until April 9 2020, and may be extended depending on the evolution of the epidemiological situation. “We congratulate the cruise companies for the courageous measures they have taken,” comments Marta Sa Lemos, marketing and communications department Porto Cruise Terminal. “Together we will overcome this difficult moment.” 

Portsmouth International Port continues to accept cruiseships and ferries, providing assistance and support for crew as required. Extra staff and potential deep-cleaning requirements post call will be available. Capt Ian Diaper, head of operations PIP, says: “Portsmouth International Port is very much open for business and we will support our colleagues in the cruise/ferry Industry.”

The mooring of cruiseships in Mukran Port in Sassnitz/Ruegen Island is not restricted. However the entry regulations imposed by the federal government and the state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern apply (Rugen island is closed for tourists), explains Yana Grundke, manager BD cruise Mukran Port. Two ships up to 250m in length and 9m draught can be accommodated for a maximum of one to two months. Crew supply and disposal are possible.

Cruiseships are not allowed to dock in Skjolden Sognefjord during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government of the Russian Federation restricts the entry into Russia for foreign citizens and stateless persons from March 18 until May 1 2020 in order to ensure state security in health sector and to avoid spreading of a coronavirus infection (COVID-2019) in the country. During this period Passenger Port of St Petersburg Marine Facade will not perform passenger operations while ships call. If no further restrictions are introduced from May 1, the port shall operate according to the ship calls schedule. However the lay-by is possible. The above-mentioned government act does not restrict entry of crew. When it comes to lay-bys, Konstantin Guzev, operation director Inflot Worldwide, says: “Most of the facilities are owned by the city Government and they are interested in welcoming cruiseships for layup until regular operations are resumed.” At present the following berths are available: Marine Facade: seven berths, 2m066m, maximum permitted draught 8.8m, maximum permitted length overall 340m; Morskoy Vokzal: two berths, 220m/8m and 130m/6.5m; Downtown: two berths: 220m/80m. Guzev says: “We would be glad to assist the cruiselines in every aspect the ships/crew might require. Needless to say that all regular services are available: bunkering, provisioning, freshwater supply, all kinds of disposal services etc.”

Currently The Ports of Stockholm cannot provide any quay for cruiseships for a longer term. “We have to prioritise the traffic which is still up and running and the line traffic with all our ferries that are now also heavily affected due to this corona situation,” explains Stefan Scheja, manager cruise & ferry Ports of Stockholm.

The Estonian government has stated that Tallinn will not accommodate cruiseships with passengers until May 1. “The general answer for cruiseships without passengers will also be no, but we are ready to discuss every situation case-by-case with the cruiselines and with our government,” says Sirle Arro, head of marketing & communication department Port of Tallinn. This would depend on the crew: what nationalities are onboard; when and how often will there be crew exchanges; there must not be corona-cases onboard; and the availability of quays in the harbours. “As a responsible company we will protect our people and our country, but we will also try to give our best that the cruise industry will survive the current situation and will recover as soon as possible.”

“The Port of Tilbury is helping a number of its valued cruiseline customers at a very difficult time for the industry. We are currently providing safe and suitable river and inner berth locations for five cruise vessels with two more due in April. These vessels are our regular customers and we are supporting them while their ships are not operational,” explains Steve Lyons, Port of Tilbury/London Moorings and Cruise Terminals. Adding: “We have no more space as we need to remain match fit for normal operations.” Magellan, Saga Sapphire and Spirit of Discovery and Viking Stare are four of those in lay-by presently.

Trondheim Port Authority is accepting cruiseships into the port. It can accommodate one ship of 300m in length from now until the end of April. In terms of the crew national guidelines from the coastal authority and the health authorities are being adhered to. Available quays will be offered at reduced cost, according to Kirsti Ostensjo, head of marketing & logistics Trondheim Port.

The Port of Tyne has opportunities for lay-by both on a berth and at anchor. Vessels up to 300m in length can come alongside. There are no restrictions on anchorage unless a ship needs provisions/water, in which case it would need to come alongside a berth restricted to 300m in length. The usual ISPS requirements are in place for the crew but Tyne Port Health may require additional measures, according to Kate O’Hara, commercial director Port of Tyne. Additional checks and security are now in place at the port which is working “to provide flexibility to allow the port to accommodate as many vessels as possible to support the cruise business”. Any communication from Tyne Port Health will be shared and restricted access will be provided if required. O’Hara adds: “The Port of Tyne is happy to answer any queries, and each enquiry will be assessed individually and confidentially. We are here to help.”

In Zeebrugge ships that had already been booked can berth for the day but passenger and crew must stay onboard until at least April 13. Any size of ship can come in but berth length is restricted to 725m and the quay used is not a dedicated cruise quay. It is rented back for day calls from CRO Ports which has the quay in its concession. Its contingency plan states that the quay must remain available for its own ships in case the situation compels them to take ships out of service and moor them at a lay-by berth. In terms of implementing extra measures, Piet Vandenkerkhove, public relations & cruises Port of Zeebrugge, says: “We depend on government measures. It is highly unlikely the government will offer much help apart from transporting severely ill crew to the hospital. Crew changes and repatriation will be considered case by case.”
Cruise Europe port members offer what they can given coronavirus restrictions
Michael McCarthy, chairman Cruise Europe (c) Cruise Europe