The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dropped its controversial “No Sail” order in favor for a so-called Conditional Sailing Order.
In short, the “No Sail” order has been lifted and the industry will work with the CDC on a realistic, phased-in return to service.
“The initial phases will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members,” the CDC said in a statement posted to its website.
“CDC will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew 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.
“These phases are subject to change based on public health considerations and cruise ship operators’ demonstrated ability to mitigate COVID19 risk. CDC will issue additional orders as needed that will be published in the Federal Register and technical instructions that will be subsequently posted on CDC’s website.”
The framework allows for individual cruise lines to progress through phases at variable paces, according to the agency, and enables cruise lines successfully implementing public health measures to return to passenger operations more quickly while others by necessity may move more slowly.
The framework not only encourages cruise lines that are more successful at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 but provides a realistic timeline that anticipates COVID-19 continuing to be present and affecting cruise ship travel, the CDC said.
The phased-in approach will include: (1) establishment of laboratory testing of crew onboard cruise ships in U.S. waters; (2) 15 simulated voyages designed to test a cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 on cruise ships; (3) a certification process; and (4) a return to passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 introduction, transmission, or spread among passengers and crew onboard ships and ashore to communities.
These phases will be further determined based on public health considerations including the trajectory of COVID-19 transmission and the demonstrated ability of cruise ship operators to successfully employ measures that mitigate the risk of COVID-19.
As part of the initial crew testing phases, the additionally contains requirements for: (1) shoreside COVID-19 laboratory screening testing of all crew currently onboard; (2) onboard diagnostic testing capabilities for symptomatic travelers (crew and future passengers); (3) shoreside COVID-19 laboratory screening testing of all newly embarking crew; and (4) continued compliance by cruise ship operators with their complete, accurate, and acknowledged No Sail Order Response Plans.