March 22 ------ The Port of Seattle has canceled the first two sailings of its 2020 cruise season amid the ongoing health risks stemming from the spreading of the coronavirus. The said sailings were planned for April 1 and April 5. They were ‘port of call’ sailings, which means that the vessel makes a one-day stop in Seattle on its way to a different destination. “This region is in a public health emergency and we will cancel the first two sailings of our cruise season,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck. “The health, safety, and wellbeing of our residents is our top priority.”
The port said it was working with first responders, cruise lines, and local leaders, and considering current public health guidance, as well as enhanced actions that the cruise lines are undertaking, to determine future sailings. The port also owns two cruise ship terminals. The majority of sailings at the Port of Seattle are ‘homeport’ sailings, meaning that passengers begin and end their cruise in Seattle. “Local suppliers provide the vessel with goods and supplies, and guests often spend time in the region before or after their cruise. As a result, each homeport sailing creates approximately USD 4 million in business activity for the region. Cruise season in Seattle generates nearly USD 900 million in business activity and supports 5,500 jobs,” the port said.
The 2020 cruise season at the port was scheduled to run from April 1 to October 19, 2020. The cruise season was expected to serve 1.3 million revenue passengers this year. i.e., passengers that depart and arrive at the port’s terminals. The number of individuals who cruise through the Port of Seattle is closer to 650,000, the port’s data shows. It is yet to be determined how much will the port’s cruise business be impacted by the cancellations. However, one thing is for sure, the cruise industry has taken a strong blow from the virus outbreak as people are discouraged from taking cruises amid potential infection risks. Cruise liners have been forced to cancel numerous sailings, predominantly in Asia, and now Italy and the U.S. as well, due to COVID-19 outbreak. There have been calls to suspend cruising in total as cruise ships have been described as “the breeding ground” for the spread of viruses and a “public health hazard” following the infections on board Diamond Princess and more recently Grand Princess. Cruise liners have been criticized for their continuation of sailings with arguments saying that they were more interested in profits than public health and safety.
Commenting on the accusations, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said earlier this week that any action to restrict cruising is unwarranted and at odds with the World Health Organization which “continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.” Singling out the travel and tourism industry, and cruise lines specifically, would have a detrimental impact on the U.S. economy contributing nearly USD 53 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018, CLIA added.