On July 27, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) jointly published the COVID-19 EU guidance for cruise ships.
ESPO welcomes the initiative taken by EMSA in producing this useful and timely goal-based guidance, and supports the recommendations outlined in the document. The guidance is not intended to provide prescriptive solutions. Rather, it helps stakeholders in determining the effectiveness of measures addressing the identified risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a living document, ESPO expects the guidance to change and adapt in accordance with new developments and policy measures relating to COVID-19.
“European ports are committed to contribute to a safe, sustainable and resilient recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19. The safe and sustainable restoration of cruise business is for some ports an essential part of this. It will be important to work towards a level playing field in approaches and measures to restart, when possible, cruise operations, notwithstanding the national policies in the management of this health crisis. This guidance is a first step in that process and will help cruise operators in this process,” comments Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General of ESPO.
ESPO has been consulted and actively contributed to the development of this guidance, which is intended the facilitate the safe and sustainable restoration of cruise traffic in the EU.
Crucially, the guidance places the main responsibility for preventing and containing outbreaks on cruise operators, and contains important advice on how operators should coordinate and cooperate with port managing bodies and Port States.
At the same time, the guidance recognises that the safe operation of a cruise ship normally requires the involvement of several parties, including the company managing the ship, ship master and crew, the port and terminal where the ship will berth, the State whose flag the ship flies (Flag State), and the State that the ship visits (Port State). The cooperation of these main parties concerned is essential to re-start operations and to respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19.
While the EU guidance is addressing the important issues of the repatriation of passengers and crew changes, ESPO believes that this guidance is not enough to solve the ongoing crisis as regards the changing of crews in the current situation. Joint solutions have to be developed by the relevant authorities in Member States in order to address this humanitarian crisis.
European seaports firmly believe that the lessons learned from the development of this guidance will leave European stakeholders and decision makers better prepared for potential future developments in this crisis.