Australia has again extended its cruise shipping ban, this time through April 17, 2022, adding 2 months to the rolling prohibition that was scheduled to expire on February 17.
Greg Hunt, Australia minister for health, attributed the extension to concerns over the omicron variant and the wave of COVID cases in Australia.
The announcement comes days after Australia released its return-to-tourism plan, reopening the country to vaccinated international travellers beginning February 21. The plan left cruises out, frustrating CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), which pointed to "extensive discussions between the industry and government" before the announcement.
CLIA Australasia had a difficult time over 2021 persuading Australian officials to develop a framework to restart cruising, saying in September that discussions had "gone nowhere" and officials had ignored outreach efforts.
In a statement on Friday, the health minister said that the National Cabinet had agreed the eastern states and the federal government would develop a plan to restart sailings "over the coming months."
The industry hopes this will be the last extension before cruise ships can return to Australia.
Joel Katz, CLIA Australasia's managing director, said that though the cruise ban had been extended, they could see hope for thousands of Australians whose livelihoods depend on cruise tourism.
"Australia is still the only major cruise market in the world without confirmed plans for cruising's resumption, so it's important that governments work in partnership with the cruise industry to achieve a swift solution."
Katz added that most larger cruise ships had canceled sailings there through the end of May 2022 and that it could take a number of months of prep work to get vessels ready to return.
"We need governments to sign off on industry protocols as soon as possible so we can begin a careful and responsible revival of cruise tourism in Australia."