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Aussie companies call for urgent re-start of cruise industry

The ongoing ban on cruise ships in Australia is devastating businesses who rely on the booming $5b industry.

And companies fear if the ban is not lifted at the end of the year, the busy summer season will be shattered, sparking a new wave of job losses not only for them, but for related workers who rely on the industry.

Cruises support 25,000 jobs in the country, and tens of thousands more worldwide.

Carnival is among cruise firms not allowed to sail. (Supplied)

Sydney, the country’s busiest cruise port, sees 115,000 passengers a year, and during the summer season from December to March, multiple cruise ships dock in Sydney Harbour daily.

Almost 30 passengers on the Ruby Princess ship died after the virus spread on board at the start of the pandemic, with NSW Health blamed after it then tore through the country when passengers disembarked.

Industry bosses who are campaigning for a resumption of sailings, say they’re better prepared than any tourism industry to safely restart cruises – and will test every passenger before they board.

However, cruises are unable to start up again, with Carnival Australia recently cancelling cruises into the New Year.

Farmers could be hit next

Most of Paul Nelson’s fruit and veg, gathered via his firm, In2Food in Sydney, goes to make lavish meals for cruisers.

In2Food supplies ships from its Sydney base. (Supplied)

What grew from a family business started by his father-in-law now supplies every cruise line which sails out of Australia.

But since the industry shutdown, Mr Nelson said he has lost “millions” of dollars, has had to close a warehouse and shed 14 staff.

The knock-on effect has even impacted the truck drivers he uses to cart the produce – he would usually send 21 trailers a week to ships – and the mechanics who maintain the trucks.

And Mr Nelson said the farmers who grow the produce are next in line, including the many small family producers he uses.

The Norwegian Jewel cruise ship at Sydney Harbour. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

He said he can’t tell them what produce will be needed, and also fears if they do grow it, it could all go to waste.

“It’s horrific,” Mr Nelson said.

“If we get a date when cruise resumes and how many ships are coming, we can tell them what to plant.

“We can’t tell them what to plant or not.”

Family company battling ban

Clean Cruising is one of Australia’s most successful specialist travel agents.

Dan Russell runs the Queensland-based firm started by his parents 20-years-ago.

Clean Cruising, a Brisbane travel agent, is still booking cruises, but business has been smashed. (Supplied)

It usually books cruises for 30,000 travellers every year sailing from Australia and around the world.

And while cruise fans are hopeful they will get to depart soon, with some booking for next year, Clean Cruising’s customers are only 20 per cent of usual.

Six staff have gone and more are on JobKeeper.

Mr Russell said the cruise industry has worked to make things safe, and the Australian government needs to work fast to save the summer season – and companies like his.

However, many crew come from developing countries, and the massive operations can’t just restart overnight.

Viking Cruises was among the firms which halted sailings early in the pandemic. (Supplied)

“The problem is cruise holidays and cruising has been put into bit of a ‘too hard’ basket,” Mr Russell said.

“What that means is every week, every month later it takes for cruising to restart, it’s going to mean jobs are going to be lost.

“If we miss the second half of the summer, it means it won’t restart until September next year and if that were the case, there would be a great lost opportunity.”

No work for 80 contractors

When ships come into port, they need maintenance, and workers from Sydney company Inter-Marine help work on the vessels.

Inter-Marine has no work for 80 contractors, plus full time staff. (Supplied)

But boss Graeme Blackman has gone from six staff to four – and also has no work for around 80 contractors he’d usually send to work on ships in dry dock in Singapore.

Financially, his firm has been devastated.

“We turned over $7.5m last financial year, and this year we’ll be struggling to get to reach $1m,” he said.

“We’re struggling to get through.”

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia, Joel Katz, said the industry has done more than any other tourism sector to revamp rules amid the pandemic, and are working with the government on plans to sail again.
Crew members wave as the Ruby Princess cruise ship departs from Wollongong after multiple passengers died following a COVID-19 outbreak. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Image)

“It’s important to remember that cruise ships are neither the cause nor the source of COVID-19,” Mr Katz said.

“This disease spreads in any social setting, and cruising is by its nature a social setting.

“The lengths the cruise industry has gone to in response to COVID-19 are beyond those of almost any other travel sector.  

“With these health measures in place and limited numbers of passengers, we envisage a phased and regional resumption of cruising in our own region.”

An Australian government spokesperson said the cruise ship ban was based on health advice, and there were no plans to get the big ships moving.

“At this time, there has been no date set for the resumption of either larger domestic or international cruises, however state and territory governments may allow small internal cruises that do not come under the cruise ship ban,” a spokesperson told 9News.

Contact journalist Sarah Swain: [email protected]

Source: 9News

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