MIAMI — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that it will allow its No Sail Order to expire on Oct. 31 as planned, paving the way for the resumption of cruise ship operations.
In the No Sail Order’s place is the newly announced, 40-page Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which applies to passenger operations on cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The initial phases will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members. CDC will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew members while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers.
Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements, and a phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members and U.S. communities.
CDC will issue additional orders as needed that will be subsequently posted on its website.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing. It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live,” says CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers, and communities and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.”
The CDC acknowledges that cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is very challenging. The Framework for Conditional Sailing Order requires a phased approach to resuming passenger operations. A phased approach is necessary because of the continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, risk of resurgence in countries that have suppressed transmission, ongoing concerns related to restarting of cruising internationally, and 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.
“CDC and the cruise industry have the same goal: A return to passenger sailing, but only when its safe. Under the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, cruise lines have been given a pathway to systematically demonstrate their ability to sail while keeping passengers, crew and their destination ports safe and healthy,” said former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel.
Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), added: “Our member lines are 100% committed to helping to protect the health of our guests, our crew and the communities we serve, and are prepared to implement multiple layers of protocols informed by the latest scientific and medical knowledge. We look forward to reviewing the new Order and are optimistic that it is an important step toward returning our ships to service from U.S. ports.”
CLIA members have been in a voluntary suspension of operations from U.S. ports for over seven months. In that time, CLIA member cruise lines have worked with leading outside experts in health and science to develop science-based measures to further strengthen public health protocols and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for passengers, crews and destinations. With enhanced measures in place—including 100% testing for passengers and crew prior to boarding, mask-wearing, physical distancing requirements, highly controlled shore excursions and many more—CLIA members have gradually resumed sailing in Europe and other parts of the world with success.
CDC will help ships prepare and protect crew members during the initial phases by:
- establishing a laboratory team dedicated to cruise ships to provide information and oversight for COVID-19 testing,
- updating its color-coding system to indicate ship status,
- updating its technical instructions, as needed, and
- updating the “Enhanced Data Collection (EDC) During COVID-19 Pandemic
Form” to prepare for surveillance for COVID-19 among passengers.
CDC’s announcement follows yesterday’s announcement by Canada’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, who extended Canada’s cruise ship ban until Feb. 28, 2021.