The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. Hardly any sector was spared from the scourge of the crisis, and the maritime industry has been no exception. To be more specific, maritime travel which includes cruise shipping has suffered massive job and revenue losses. The impact on travel is six or seven times greater than the 9/11 attacks, says Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
Travel and tourism industry plummeted with the double blow of lockdown and border control and quarantine measures over the past six months. In the month of September, as countries across the globe are mooting to ease restrictions on travel, the UK travel industry is deriving good hope of revival. The maritime sector kept the UK supplied during the Coronavirus lockdown but we now need to look at how international travel might be encouraged and sustained, British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne said.
Responding to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ statement in the House of Commons on Monday, Ballantyne said that it is the quarantine rules are understandable but they have it the shipping especially maritime travel badly. “Jobs and businesses in the travel industry need a change in approach to help them survive. We are living in a new era so we need to adapt to the circumstances.”
Ballantyne added, “Although we recognise the high number of aviation passenger movements, we are keen that maritime travel is not forgotten. Cruise, recreational sailing and in particular ferry travel are important to many regions, however with recent restrictions such activities have been hit particularly hard.”
“As with the calls from the aviation sector, we are keen to explore how testing can be used to enable travel in a way that avoids quarantining, whilst providing the government and the public with the confidence they need. Testing has been used in other parts of the world so let’s look at what we can do in the UK.”
All said and done, the revival of the cruise and maritime travel industry will need time. Researchers and health experts have rated it as one of the most risk prone sector for the spread of novel Coronavirus. According to reports, companies in the cruise industry have incurred losses of more than USD 1,000 million (approximately) since January 2020. Shares of many big companies have nosedived.
In this perspective, the BPA Chief Executive highlighted the importance of Government intervention to revive the maritime travel industry. “An obvious challenge is how the processes might be introduced of course. Whilst typically aviation passengers are on foot, the majority of maritime travellers use vehicles that move via ferries. This means we would need a pragmatic solution to maintain operations at ports, should testing be introduced,” said Ballantyne.
Sea News Feature, September 8