Singapore plans to allow cruises to nowhere

SINGAPORE • Singapore is planning to allow so-called cruises to nowhere in what could be among the first of measures to reopen leisure travel in the city-state, the Straits Times reported.

The country’s tourism board appointed Norway-based risk management company DNV GL AS to create a health and safety framework for cruise lines that want to restart sailings from Singapore, the newspaper said, citing tender documents related to the plan. The company will also develop a certification programme and a framework for non-compliance with safety measures, the paper said.

The move could give some relief to cruise operators as the city-state has halted dock-ins since March following the global outbreak of Covid-19. Earlier this week, Singapore Airlines Ltd scrapped a similar plan to operate short flights to nowhere on environmental concerns and instead will open one of its Airbus SE A380 superjumbos as a temporary restaurant.

Cruises to nowhere will be allowed with a maximum occupation of 50% of a ship’s original capacity for the first three months. No date was given for when this programme might start, according to the report. All cruise lines must be audited and receive Singapore’s certification to sail out of its ports.

The tourism board told the newspaper that the certification aims to assure passengers that a cruise has met safety and hygiene requirements and that more details will be announced later.

The cruise industry has been eager to restart operations, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday extended a no-sail ban in the US by a month, to Oct 31, saying further action is needed before cruises can safely resume. It said data from March through September show more than 3,600 Covid-19 or Covid-like cases on cruise ships in US waters, and at least 41 reported deaths.

The industry shut down in March after a series of Covid-19 outbreaks at sea, including one at cruise giant Carnival Corp’s Diamond Princess off Yokohama, Japan, in February. Even healthy passengers have suffered, as many ports turned ships away for fear of seeding new shore- side outbreaks. Tens of thousands of crew members were trapped on vessels for months. — Bloomberg