Japan reopens ports to international cruise ships

   November 16, 2022 ,   Cruise Industry

Japan will already allow international cruise ships to dock at its ports, Tetsuo Saito (country's transport minister) said on Tuesday, November 15, lifting a more than 2-year ban imposed at the start of the COVID crisis to stem the spread of the virus in the country.

The ministry determined that enough preparations had been made to accept liners carrying large groups of people, with guidelines crafted by cruise industry associations to prevent the spread of infections. Travelers who are suspected to be infected have to be tested, and those with positive results/their close contacts quarantined.

Even in case an outbreak occurs, the liners can continue their operations so long as a doctor onboard can determine that the virus can be contained, according to the guidelines. However, the ship's schedule will be shortened in case over 10% of the passengers are infected.

Japan International Cruise Committee announced that a total of 166 visits by foreign cruise ships had already been planned from March 2023.

The halt on international travel had been in place since March 2020, after a COVID cluster infection on Diamond Princess caused thousands to be quarantined in Yokohama (Tokyo, Japan Kanagawa) the month before and left 13 of 700+ infected passengers and crew members dead.

Cruise lines will hold discussions with the authorities of the port of call and seek agreement on docking.

Under the guidelines, all crew of a ship must be vaccinated 3 times against the virus, and over 95% of passengers must be vaccinated at least twice. 

The government hopes that opening the border to international cruise vessels will help recover inbound tourism to pre-COVID levels by 2025.

Port of Yokohama (Tokyo, Japan Kanagawa)

Image: Port of Yokohama (Tokyo, Japan Kanagawa)

In 2019, before the COVID crisis, ~2.15M cruise passengers visited the country, spending ~80 billion yen (US$575 million), the ministry revealed, with 1,932 stops made by cruise ships of foreign companies, and 934 by those of domestic companies.

International cruise operations restarted in Europe and the United States from June 2021.