Waiting for winter
Cruise lines expected late in 2021, says Port AuthorityWednesday, July 21, 2021
CRUISE liners are not expected to return to Jamaica before the 2021 winter tourist season.
William Tatham, vice-president of cruise shipping at the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), says the return of cruises is dependent on guidelines from the Ministry of Health.
He told the Jamaica Observer, “We are not able to give this information [on ships slated for arrival] as at this time the cruise ports remain closed....Once the Ministry of Health has finalised the cruise protocols and we are authorised to open the ports, then we will be better able to advise.”
Tatham added, “Keep in mind also that cruise lines are just now restarting operations and it will take some time to get back to full operations and full occupancy, which will also impact calls and passenger counts. Our hope is to return to full normality for the winter cruise system.”
The cruise lines, which were a hotbed of COVID-19 infections globally in early 2020, have faced a hard road in securing permission from health and other local authorities to bring visitors into the world's ports. The Caribbean Tourism Organization in March 2020 reported a 72 per cent decline in cruise visitors. By May, many ships had suspended sailing.
Currently, in 2021, while some cruise lines resumed sailing after implementing vaccine passports and asking for additional insurance payments from passengers, still they have not been made welcome in some home ports. Meanwhile, those in the Caribbean islands – which are dependent on revenue from the cruise segment – have been struck a devastating blow by the absence of visitors. Jamaica is no exception.
Listed company PanJam Investments Limited reports that associated company Chukka Caribbean Adventures Limited (Chukka) suffered losses due to the suspension of cruise traffic to the region in April 2020 and was forced to shutter many of its operations throughout the region.
The company is awaiting the return of cruise lines. Management said in the annual report, “Given Chukka's dominant position in the tourist attractions sector, we are working assiduously with management to preserve value and ensure that the company can take advantage of the inevitable surge in tourism once travellers return to the region.”
While a booking site belonging to the Port Authority shows some 15 ships set to arrive in July 2021, the authority indicates that these were made long ago and are not expected to enter local ports. Kimberley Stiff, PAJ spokesperson,said “Considering the new operational paradigm in light of COVID-19 which has significantly impacted the global cruise industry, bookings that were previously considered “confirmed” are now treated as tentative.
“This is due to the fact that cruise lines are uncertain of the timeline in which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [CDC] will approve the resumption of sailing. As a result of this uncertainty, cruise lines have been maintaining previously confirmed schedules in the event there is a decision to resume sailing. However, when there is no approval, the trend has been to reschedule to a later date, providing the berth is available, rather than to cancel the booking.”
Other companies affected by the downturn include Margaritaville Turks, a subsidiary of Jamaican company Margaritaville Caribbean Ltd., owners and franchise operators of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville locations throughout the Caribbean. The company is located on the Grand Turk Cruise Centre, Turks and Caicos Islands, which once welcomed approximately one million passengers annually.
In a recent report, management outlined, “There were no cruises into the Grand Turk port... no confirmed timeline has been determined for the resumption of cruising to the port.” The company has been benefiting from cash infusions from parent company Margaritaville Caribbean Limited.
Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited, with operations both in Jamaica and Saint Lucia, saw revenues decline due to lower visitor arrivals, especially in Saint Lucia after that nation closed its borders in 2020. Overall, group sales dipped from March 2020 and continue to be adversely affected.
Another company, Cargo Handlers Limited, reported reduced revenue caused, management said, by a decline in containerised cargo handled for domestic commercial activity. In statements attached to financials at year end 2020, the company said, “Our expectations are that the current flow of bulk and containerised cargoes, as well as our equipment leasing segment, will continue to drive revenues for at least the ensuing three quarters; this as home-porting cruise ships are not expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels before the end of the calendar year 2021, based on the current economic outlook.”
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login