In our continuing efforts to provide the latest cruise industry restart developments, we continue to monitor CDC technical guidelines and related cruise line and port movement.

The CDC has now issued guidance for the components of the agreements between U.S. Ports, Local Health Authorities, and cruise operators for the CDC to issue the Conditional Sailing Order that will allow simulated voyages to commence. Once the simulated voyages are completed, the CDC plan is to evaluate any changes to the Agreements from the “lessons learned”, before allowing commercially restricted passenger cruises to begin from U.S. Ports. A timeline for this effort is not specific, but likely will depend upon the number of ships in the qualifying pipeline preparing to conduct the simulated voyages.

It should be noted that CDC also has requested that Ports provide certain other analysis that establishes the capacity of the port. This is a reflection of our last cruise bulletin, as this element could be very complicated in nature due to the variety of U.S. ports and their individual ability to accommodate vessels/passenger in port and the upland areas, as well as accommodate separation of visitors; public health issues; hospitalization impacts; transportation and other elements. The agreement must include the following 5 components:

1. General Terms and Conditions – specific information as to the parties’ signatory to the agreement.

2. Vaccination Component – includes a plan and timeline for vaccination of cruise ship crew before resuming passenger operations.

3. Port Component – specifies procedures that the cruise ship operator intends to use during simulated voyages and restricted passenger cruises.

4. Medical Care Component – documentation of contractual arrangements to provide for the emergency medical treatment, transportation, and care of critically ill persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 from the ship to a shoreside medical facility.

5. Housing Component – documentation of contractual arrangements to meet the shoreside housing needs of travelers (passengers and crew) for isolation and quarantine.

This document is focused on Element 3 – Port Component. In this section of the technical guidelines, CDC is looking for specific procedures:

  • Covering embarkation and disembarkation processes;
  • Testing procedures;
  • Emergency response plan;
  • Procedures for separating passengers via social distancing;
  • Training of land-based staff; and,
  • Cleaning and operating procedures of all land-based activities.

The following table is the specific language provided by CDC as guidance and subsequently modified, which focuses on the Port Component Items to be covered in the Agreements between Port, Cruise Line, and local Health Agency:

1. Specifies embarkation procedures that the cruise ship operator intends to use during simulated voyages and restricted passenger voyages. These embarkation procedures must be designed insofar as possible to minimize contact between travelers and port personnel. CDC may request that the parties modify or amend the agreement to reflect changes to embarkation procedures based on “lessons learned” from the cruise ship operator’s simulated voyage(s) as described in the after-action report for each voyage.

2. Specifies procedures for day-of-embarkation screening for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, laboratory testing of travelers, including testing locations and management of individuals who test positive and their close contacts.

3. Includes emergency response plans in the event of a “worst-case” scenario of multiple ships’ experiencing simultaneous outbreaks of COVID-19. If the port authority intends to allow more than one cruise ship operator to operate at its port facilities, then the port authority and local public health authorities should jointly consider emergency response plans involving a “worst-case” scenario of multiple ships from multiple cruise ship operators experiencing simultaneous outbreaks of COVID-19.

4. Includes clear protocols for contacting emergency medical services while at port for exigent circumstances not covered by the hospital component of the agreement (e.g., a medical emergency not related to COVID-19, such as a heart attack).

5. Includes clear protocols that avoid medical evacuations at sea to the greatest extent possible for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related medical reasons. Protocols rely on commercial resources (e.g., ship tender, chartered standby vessel, chartered airlift) for unavoidable medical evacuation at sea and are designed to minimize the burden to the greatest extent possible on federal, state, and local government resources, including U.S.. coast guard resources. All medical evacuations at sea must be coordinated with the U.S. coast guard.

6. Specifies disembarkation procedures that will be implemented in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19, and that the cruise ship operator intends to use during simulated voyages and restricted passenger voyages. CDC may request that the parties modify or amend the agreement to reflect changes to disembarkation procedures based on “lessons learned” from the cruise ship operator’s simulated voyage(s) as described in the after-action report for each voyage.

7. Specifies procedures to:

  • Avoid congregating of embarking and disembarking travelers (passengers and/or crew).
  • Ensure disembarking and embarking travelers (from the same ship but different voyages) do not occupy the same enclosed or semi-enclosed areas (e.g., gangways, terminal waiting spaces, check-in areas) to the extent practicable.
  • Ensure disembarking and embarking travelers from different ships do not occupy the same enclosed or semi-enclosed areas (e.g., gangways, terminal waiting spaces, check-in areas) to the extent practicable.

8. Includes procedures for informing port personnel who are expected to interact with travelers (passengers and/or crew) of the risks of COVID-19 and how to prevent exposure.

9. Considers incorporating specific procedures for routine testing and symptom monitoring of port personnel who are expected to interact with travelers (passengers and/or crew). Additionally, employers should encourage employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine when eligible and the vaccine is available. This includes but is not limited to the following personnel:

  • Port agents/greeters
  • Security personnel
  • Transportation staff
  • Baggage handlers
  • Check-in staff
  • Cleaners/janitorial staff
  • Longshoremen
  • Maritime pilots
  • Delivery drivers

10. Includes routine and outbreak-level cleaning procedures for areas where travelers are reasonably expected to gather or otherwise make use of, including terminals and restrooms. In addition, includes routine and outbreak-level cleaning procedures for transportation vehicles under a cruise lines’ control (e.g., buses, shuttle vans). For more information about cleaning and disinfection, please refer to CDC’s detailed disinfecting guidance for facilities and cleaning and disinfection for non-emergency transport vehicles.

  • It is recommended that commercial transportation companies/drivers be provided with information on cleaning procedures (taxi, ride share services, parking lot shuttle vans). For this industry, please refer to CDC’s COVID-19 webpage for specific industries.

There are many elements of this agreement process that smaller cruise destinations will have issues in meeting for a single ship (medical, housing, transportation, spatial separation) not even taking into consideration a multi-vessel call day.

Based upon cruise operator statements and observing the time it has taken thus far by the CDC to react and provide technical guidelines, this is likely a minimum 60 to 90-day process and more likely to take at least 120-days (4 months).

For U.S. homeports, developing the obligatory details necessary will require simulation modeling to assess the capacities of the terminals; provide for separation options; and examine the key embarkation and debarkation areas addressed within the CDC guidelines. BA has the right tools and experience in terminal design, modeling, and operations to assist ports in this examination effort. Please feel free to reach out to us for assistance.