Cruise ship season reopens for high-end luxury ships in Seychelles waters |12 November 2021
Seychelles is ready to welcome cruise ships and is expecting the first high-end luxury ship for the season on November 18, following a ban lasting over a year.
The announcement came yesterday during a press conference with principal secretary for civil aviation, ports and marine Alain Renaud, chief executive of the Seychelles Ports Authority (SPA) Ronny Brutus and the director general for marketing at the Tourism department, Bernadette Willemin.
Seychelles officially announced the closure of borders to cruise ships in March 2020 as one of the means to protect the local population following the explosion of Covid-19 infections on cruise ships such as the Diamond Princess in Japan. During that season the country had received 22 cruise ships and recorded 13 cancellations following the ban announcement.
“What has happened within two years is that the cruise ship industry has made a lot of changes in adapting their procedures, create new procedures and of course one of the biggest factors is vaccination. We were always worried initially about cruise ships because
if there was an eventuality could we handle 700 serious cases at once? Of course this would overwhelm our facilities, but thanks to the procedures put in place by cruise ships and our own procedures, the vaccination programme and other changes taking place, we are comfortable, in the sense that we are confident that we are ready and prepared, with all the contingencies in place to welcome cruise ships,” PS Renaud explained.
“Cruise ships are an important part of our tourism industry and we are one of the few island nations that has re-opened their borders to cruise ships and we’ve also introduced some new technologies, all of which are the results of many months of work with local stakeholders, cruise ship companies, the Tourism department, SPA and health authorities,” PS Renaud stated reassuringly.
The season will this time last from November 18 with the first call and the last call on January 25, 2022.
Mr Brutus noted that the authorities have gained and learned from crew shifts on tuna vessels over the past two years, echoing PS Renaud’s sentiments. The five cruise ships authorised to operate in Seychelles waters and make 19 port calls in total are Le Bellot (Le Ponant Group), Le Bougainville (Le Ponant Group), Scenic Eclipse, MS Europa and MS Europa 2.
“They will operate only in Seychelles waters and will not make regional calls as was the case in the past. Therefore, they will call in to other islands such as Praslin, La Digue, Curieuse and others. This means passengers will arrive via flights, they will board the vessels for their tour while others will make passenger changes and return home by air,” Mr Brutus said.
“The vessels are also much smaller being high-end cruise liners, meaning the maximum passenger capacity is around 300. Being smaller, in terms of length makes it easier for us to manage as compared to the ones we had before. The largest we will have now is MS Europa 2 at 225 metres,” Mr Brutus clarified.
Around 5700 passengers are expected onboard the five vessels, although other cruise liners are expressing their intent to operate in Seychelles waters.
All cruise ships coming to Seychelles are required to submit to the authorities a checklist, Company and Ship Management, Covid-19 outbreak management plan detailing procedures and measures in place to handle cases, risk assessments, onboard testing capacity, social distancing, isolation facilities, rules for boarding and disembarking the ship among other measures.
Coupled with changes onboard the ships are amendments to port procedures and the extension of the travel authorisation system Travizory to maritime travel. Cruise ship passengers leaving the ship and entering Seychelles need to seek travel authorisation through the platform.
As a new form of border security, all ships are obligated to submit passenger information in advance, in addition to a list of the different ports of entry. Such documentation is to be submitted to local authorities through a local API platform accessible to border security agencies.
The reopening is expected to help close the gap in visitor arrivals as compared to the 2019 benchmark.
Mrs Willemin explained that since the reopening of borders to flights, the country has recorded around 140,000 visitors, 39% more than during the same period in 2020. Arrivals are still almost 60% down from 2019.
Marketing and promotion of cruise ship is also beneficial in diversifying the products being offered to visitors and give the country competitive advantage.
The reopening will also reap economic benefits for border control agencies, most specifically the SPA, which pulled in around R9 million in revenue from port operations in good cruise ship seasons, not taking into account spillover in the domestic economy.
In going forward, it is essential that stakeholder authorities also collaborate towards a comprehensive cruise ship plan. Projects such as the port extension and waterfront development will be essential to the plan to increase daily spending by visitors.