Federal Maritime Commissioner Calls For Cruise Vaccine Mandates

On the anniversary of the end of the cruise industry, Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis E. Sola, has identified mandatory vaccinations for passengers and crew and a focus on safe destinations as key elements to revitalizing the cruise industry.

Sola is currently working on Finding of Fact 30, a study by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) on the impact of COWID-19 on the cruise industry and U.S. ports.

His argument that only vaccinated passengers and crew should be allowed on board cruise ships will be controversial to some, especially those who are unwilling or unable to be vaccinated. And, at least in the short term, it will be unpopular with family cruisers because children are not on the priority list for vaccination.

But in a statement released today, Sola said the vaccination mandate is the best and fastest solution in the current situation.

READ MORE: First major US cruise line to commit to vaccination

People who want to go on a cruise should be able to do so with confidence in their health. Concentrating on [these] protocols provides a comfortable level of confidence in the safety of bathing.

The envisaged restart process will focus on three elements

Vaccinations

As a pillar of recovery, all cruise ship crew and passengers should be vaccinated, Sola said. Priority should also be given to the vaccination of coastal workers, including terminal workers and port workers.

The Commissioner reported that there are destinations where cruise ships will soon be able to enter with a low risk of COVID-19. He says Alaska is a place where vaccination rates are impressive and the population is approaching herd immunity. He also lists private islands on cruise ships as possible targets and says immunization of all personnel working in these establishments is essential.

Sanitary

The Sola report states that cruise lines and ports should work with leading health experts to develop and implement a consistent set of minimum good health practices.

Coordination

A coordinated effort to minimize the risk of contamination is important at the terminal, on ships and in ports, Sol said.

Cooperation is also needed between the lines and each port of call to ensure the evacuation, isolation and medical care of infected persons. However daunting it may seem, in some ports such agreements and plans already exist and are being tested.

(Photo courtesy of Carnival)

Economic and human costs are rising

The FMC research mission found that the U.S. lost about $15 billion in direct cruise-related spending as a result of the shutdown, while companies dependent on the industry lost about $44 billion.

READ MORE: Why Carnival Cruise Line is more grateful than ever to its former customers

The economic impact is important to Saul, but the stories he heard from those affected affected affected him even more. I was less prepared for the magnitude of these losses, not only in terms of total money, but also in terms of the number of different people working for so many different companies whose income depended on the cruise ship.

Everywhere I’ve gone and everyone I’ve talked to, I’ve heard the same message over and over again, from port directors, union leaders, community leaders and citizens: cruise ships are the livelihood of many Americans, and the sooner the ships go back to sea, the sooner people will be able to support themselves and their families.

The economic benefits of cruise ships and their passengers are numerous, Sola said.

Cruise ships need food, bedding and uniforms. They need interpreters, support staff and fuel. Cruisers stay in hotels before and after their trip. They buy plane tickets, rent cars, visit museums, shop at local stores and eat at local restaurants. The economic opportunities associated with a cruise ship visit are numerous and important.

The fastest way to recovery

The commissioner says the stories he heard from those involved during the investigation were heartbreaking, but that he is hopeful of a successful return to sailing.

I’ve always been inspired by people’s fundamental optimism and their unshakeable belief that they can get out of their current difficulties if only they get back to work.

Sola says he believes a return of the cruise is inevitable. Clearly, there is significant consumer demand waiting to be released. Americans are eager to travel again, and cruises are a popular way to vacation, he said. By working together, we can move forward.

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