The head of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) called on the U.S. government to allow a resumption of cruises with vaccinated passengers in a plan he dubbed "Cruise Forward."

In a statement posted on the FMC website today, commissioner Louis Sola laid out "a path to the safe resumption of cruise vessel operations revolving around vaccines."

Luis Sola
Luis Sola

The plan calls for only permitting vaccinated individuals to travel as passengers and vaccinating all crew. He also proposed prioritizing vaccinations for the maritime workforce, particularly terminal workers and longshore labor.

Regarding destinations, he said in some destinations there is little risk of Covid.

"Vaccination rates in Alaska are impressive, and that state is reaching herd immunity," Sola said. "Many cruise lines operate their own islands in the Bahamas, and immunizing all staff working at such facilities is imminently achievable."

The proposal also makes suggestions regarding ship sanitation and industry and port coordination around evacuation, isolation, and the provision of medical care of infected individuals.  

"As daunting as it may sound, such agreements and plans already exist at some ports, and trial runs have already been conducted," he said.

Sola presented the plan on the anniversary of the cessation of cruise operations in the U.S., saying it has come at a cost of $59 billion and counting.

"The loss of cruise operations over the course of an entire year has been felt by people and municipalities who rely on this segment of the tourism sector for jobs, salaries, and revenues," he said. He added that the U.S. has lost approximately $15 billion in direct cruise expenditures and the ancillary businesses that rely upon the cruise industry have lost approximately $44 billion.

Sola also recently encouraged the Biden administration and Congress to consider a limited exception to the Passenger Vessel Services Act to address the extension of Canada's cruise ban into 2022 and its potential risk to the Alaska cruise season. Sola had earlier said that the state had been disproportionately impacted by the cruise ban.

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