June 2, 2020
CANADA EXTENDS CRUISE SHIP PROHIBITIONS THROUGH OCT. 31, AFFECTING MAJORITY OF MAINE'S REMAINING CRUISE SEASON
On May 29, the Canadian government extended its restrictions on cruise ships with the following parameters:
Cruise ships with overnight accommodations allowed to carry more than 100 persons
are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020.
This announcement effectively cancels the remainder of the 2020 cruise season in all Canadian ports, which traditionally runs through late October.
Canada’s restrictions will also impact most of Maine’s remaining 2020 calls due to the requirements of the US Passenger Vessel Services Act, which mandates that all foreign-flag passenger vessels leaving from a US port make at least one call in an international port before returning to the US. The vast majority of foreign-flag vessels that call in Maine meet the PVSA requirements by calling on a Canadian port.
The new Canadian restrictions therefore affect at least 133 calls from foreign-flag ships scheduled to visit Portland, Rockland, Bar Harbor and Eastport between July 24 and October 31.
Prior to this Canadian announcement, Maine’s season had been deferred by the US CDC’s 100-day no sail order which currently extends through July 24 and which applies to all vessels carrying 250 or more persons (including passengers and crew).
The Mills administration had also announced on April 28 that it did not anticipate it would be safe to allow cruise ship visitation this summer, though no formal cancellations were mandated by the announcement.
WHAT ABOUT THE AMERICAN CRUISE LINE SHIPS THAT COME TO MAINE?
American Cruise Lines (ACL) vessels Independence and American Constitution are US-flagged and therefore not affected by Canada’s restrictions, nor are they affected by the CDC’s no sail order because they fall below the order’s 250-person threshold.
ACL has, however, voluntarily delayed the start date for both of these vessels, which were scheduled to come to Maine this season. They hope to restart later this summer, pending state approval of both itineraries.
The Independence has an all-Maine itinerary that includes Portland, Bar Harbor, Belfast, Castine, Camden, Rockland, Boothbay Harbor, Bath and occasionally (for weather adjustments) Bucksport.
The American Constitution follows a greater New England itinerary that starts in Boston before visiting Portland, Bar Harbor, Camden, Rockland and Boothbay Harbor in Maine and then continuing on to Gloucester, MA; Newport, RI; Martha’s Vineyard, MA; Provincetown, MA and finally returning to Boston.
This week, state officials as well as officials from all the Maine ports listed above received detailed information from ACL on their planned enhancements to operational protocols, including:
An on-board registered nurse or EMT
Diagnostic (PCR swab) testing of all passengers before departure
Health screenings for temperature, pulse, respiration and oxygen
Enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures
Reduced passenger capacity for ship
Modifications to food service and dining halls to minimize contact and promote social distancing
As more information becomes available in the coming days, CruiseMaine will be offering a Zoom meeting for stakeholders, including a Q&A period, to provide an update on the status of American Cruise Lines’ 2020 season in Maine. Please keep an eye out for a follow-up email with more details.
EASTPORT CITY COUNCIL & GOVERNOR'S OFFIVE APPROVE LAY UP OF CRUISE SHIP RIVIERA
The MS Riviera, a 785-foot Oceania Cruises vessel currently anchored off Miami, may come to Eastport to lay up for 60 days or more, pending final federal and cruise line approval. The vessel has minimal crew onboard and has not hosted any passengers for over two months since the US CDC's first no sail order went into effect on March 13.
Parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) received final approval from the Governor Mills' Office on Friday, May 29, following a 4-1 vote on May 20 by the Eastport City Council in support of allowing the ship to lay up at the breakwater facility owned and managed by the Eastport Port Authority.
NCLH officials confirmed to Eastport city councilors and other community representatives on a May 14th call that crew will be required to stay aboard the vessel at all times.
For more information, please watch for an upcoming press release by the Eastport Port Authority.
April 13, 2020
On Thursday, April 9, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an extension of its existing No Sail Order for most passenger cruise ships (see below for full definition) that had been in effect since March 14.
This No Sail Order will continue in operation until the earliest of the following three conditions are met:
The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency
The Director of the Center for Disease Control rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations
100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register (if that publication in the Federal Register were to happen today, April 10, that would extend the order to July 20)
The order applies to:
All commercial, non-cargo, passenger-carrying vessels operating in international, interstate, or intrastate waterways and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States with the capacity to carry 250 or more individuals (passengers and crew) with an itinerary anticipating an overnight stay onboard or a twenty-four (24) hour stay onboard for either passengers or crew.
Perhaps the most important message here is that the federal authorities are closely involved in the regulation of cruise ship operations and these No Sail Orders make it clear that they have stringent requirements in place before any of these vessels will be allowed to operate in US ports.
As stated by CDC Director Robert Redfield, “We are working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry. The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic.”
THE FINE PRINT
100 days is an easy-to-understand timeline, but on that note, it's important to remember the CDC will be able to extend that timeline as they see fit, just as they did here.
But how likely are the other two conditions to occur? While we cannot answer that question directly, there are a few facts that can shed some light on their likelihood.
Regarding condition #1 for lifting this No Sail Order, the expiration of the national public health emergency:
The novel coronavirus public health emergency (PHE) was declared by HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Mr. Azar on January 27, 2020 upon confirming that we had the first positive cases of COVID-19 on US soil.
This PHE declaration is different than the national emergency declared by President Trump on March 13, 2020. A public health emergency has a much lower threshold than a national emergency that the President declares. For example, a national PHE was first declared for the opioid crisis in October of 2017. That declaration has since been renewed nine times, the most recent being on January 24, 2020.
Declaring a public health emergency enables the Secretary of Health and Human Services to access Emergency Public Health funds, make grants, supply equipment, and perform many other "discretionary actions" to mitigate the emergency. Many of these powers are outlined on HHS's FAQ on public health emergency declarations.
Regarding condition #2 for lifting this No Sail Order, a rescinding of the order by the CDC Director:
Cruise Lines International Association has been working closely with the CDC and the US Coast Guard since late March to define and implement new protocols that will meet CDC requirements for preventing the spread of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships.
This renewed No Sail Order carefully outlines exactly what conditions the cruise lines would need to be able to meet in order to be allowed to embark and debark passengers and crew within the US. These conditions can be found on p. 6-8 of the full order.
March 26, 2020
The primary concern of CruiseMaine and all its member ports is for the health and safety of residents and visitors to our port communities. We also understand the economic repercussions to our state due to a severely disrupted tourism season caused by measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
As the cruise industry makes necessary adjustments to public health information, market conditions and government policies, the situation remains fluid. We are continually in touch with industry partners including federal, state and local officials and will share updates as we have them.
As of today, we know that there will be no cruise ships visiting Maine until at least May 1, 2020. We expect to know more in the coming two to three weeks.
As a partnership between the Maine Office of Tourism, the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development, the Maine Department of Transportation, and the Maine Port Authority, CruiseMaine will continue to stay abreast of this evolving situation and will be in touch as we learn more.