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If cruising is to restart these questions need answering

PortandTerminal.com, October 23, 2020

Ports and employees who rely upon the cruise industry are pressuring the CDC to lift No Sail Order | These questions need to be answered before they do

GALVESTON, TX – On Wednesday, employees at cruise ports in Texas and Florida held rallies to pressure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to let a No-Sail order expire at the end of the month.

Mike Nelson, regional manager for Metro Cruise Services in Galveston, said it’s time for cruise ships to sail again.“So to the CDC: open up the cruise business so we can get back to work,” Nelson said. “Let us provide for our families,” Nelson said. “And watch us ignite a badly needed spark into the national economy.”

Ports and people in America that rely upon the cruise industry for revenue and jobs have been crushed in the coronavirus pandemic. When the cruise ships aren’t sailing people can’t pay their bills.

Desperation sets in

Inspite of all the evidence that the coronavirus pandemic is worsening in the United States, desperation has set in amongst management and workers at cruise ports. One by one, they are urging a resumption to cruising.

Earlier this week Jonathan Daniels, CEO at Port Everglades, wrote an opinion piece in which he stated that “Cruises can resume in the United States safely”.

In his heart, we don’t think that Mr Daniels truly believes that cruising out of his port, located in the second most infected county in Florida, the third most infected state in America is safe. Our hunch is that the financial pressure of running a port that relies on cruise ship revenue for 40% of its total may have something to do with it.

The Port of Galveston is no different. People running the port there are not blind to the runaway levels of infection in Texas. The state now has more active cases than at any time since the summertime peak. The Texas COVID-19 death toll of 114 last Wednesday raised the outbreak toll to 17,201. That’s close to six times the number of people killed in the attacks of 9/11. And counting…

But cruise-related revenue at the Port of Galveston used to account for over 50% of the port’s total operating revenue and now that’s all gone.

So let’s assume that the CDC gives in to the pressure that it is under and lifts the No Sail Order. Let’s imagine that the cruise ships start sailing again soon. Before they do though, we have a question or two.

Questions that need answering

No matter how careful the health protocols that are put in place are, if the cruise ships start sailing again now, there will be mistakes made. With 100% certainty, you can be sure that there will be coronavirus outbreaks on board cruise ships that depart from US ports. Hell, even President Trump, “the most protected, got infected”.

For cruise ships to sail again at this time in the United States a few questions need to be answered first.

Who’s fault is it when there is an outbreak on board a cruise ship? Can passengers on a cruise ship where an outbreak occurs sue the cruise line if they become ill? Shouldn’t they be able to? If I book a cruise because the cruise company promised me that they have made it safe, shouldn’t I have recourse if I become ill on their vessel?

What (if any) responsibility do states have to allow infected passengers to disembark from a cruise ship once an outbreak has occurred?

Remember the coronavirus outbreak that happened on Holland America’s Zaandam cruise ship last March? Nearly 450 passengers from the Zaandam, 73 of them showing flu-like symptoms, wanted to disembark at Port Everglades. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to let its passengers disembark in his state. It took some arm twisting by President Trump to allow them to. Keep in mind that DeSantis is Governor of Florida, home to several of the world’s top cruise ports.

“We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources,”Gov. Ron DeSantis on Fox News

What obligation do other countries have to provide help if an American cruise ship suffers an outbreak of the virus off their shores? When people should have known better, why should countries who are doing the “right thing” provide help to for-profit organizations who are doing the “wrong thing”?

Conclusion? Let’s give the people, ports and cruise lines an opportunity to answer these questions. And then, like with the tobacco industry’s handling of cigarettes, let people make their own decisions with appropriate warnings.

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