Cruising season may be halted


TAGS: Shipping, Economy

The Greek cruise ship owners’ association (EKFN) is essentially asking for a ban on cruises this season, invoking the dangers of the pandemic.

“Events and the unfortunate developments in the new pandemic spike should make us cautious about planning cruise itineraries for the current tourism period so as not to be led to premature and poorly thought out moves that will harm the sector,” EKFN said in a statement on Monday. The statement also recalls the outbreaks of the disease that took place aboard cruise ships around the world earlier this year and led to the lockdown of Greek ports.

Speaking to sources, Kathimerini understands that the association would welcome a new ban on cruise ship activities for both economic and strategic reasons. Economic, because a ban on cruises would make it likely that the state will provide support, direct or indirect, to the sector. Strategically, shipowners are afraid of further incidents of coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships or infections being transmitted by passengers, denting the sector’s reputation.

In a letter to the Cruise Lines International Association at the end of July, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis had announced that six Greek ports (Piraeus, Rhodes, Iraklio, Volos, Corfu and Katakolo) would open to cruise ships arriving from abroad and the ships could then anchor in other Greek ports. So far, only two owners of mega cruise ships have planned trips between August 22 and early September, and it is still uncertain whether these will take place, given the new restrictive measures taken by governments around the world, and not just Greece.

There are also six ships of a much lesser capacity (150-200 passengers) that may approach Greek ports in the coming weeks. But, since the economic benefit is insignificant and the risk to the cruise industry’s reputation from a coronavirus incident involving these ships is disproportionately larger, local cruise ship owners believe it is not in the interest of the country and its tourism industry to entertain this risk.

So far, the government has not decided anything on the subject. But, as the pandemic progresses, decisions are being taken, evaluated and amended and alternatives revisited every day.