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Port

2020: The worries and hopes of the Black Sea cruise industry

According to all forecasts, after an almost three-year absence of ‘white ships’, 2020 was supposed to be a breakthrough in cruise shipping of the Black Sea region and, in particular, Odesa port. Preliminary applications shows that Odesa port expected 11 calls of cruise liners. However, the coronavirus pandemic has made adjustments. The first vessel MS Albatros owned by the German company Phoenix Reisen, which was supposed to call at the port of Odesa on May 4, canceled the ship call. The company suspended all operations until May 11 of this year. The second cruise company Aegean Experience Maritime Company, whose ship Aegean Odyssey planned to visit Odesa port on May 10, has to suspend all routes until the end of May.

 

The cruise industry is very sensitive to any political and geopolitical changes. But, no one expected the world to be gripped by a terrible infection. The cruise business was one of the first to react to this. The current situation began with a drop in demand for all types of vouchers, revision of routes by cruise companies: ship calls to the Asian region, then to Italian ports were excluded. But, these measures were not enough soon, and then the massive closure of the cruise lines began.

 

The Princess Cruises company was one of the first to suffer, which had to quarantine 2 vessels: the Diamond Princess liner anchored in Japan for more than 2 weeks. The whole world was anxiously watching this vessel. Then the second vessel, Grand Princess was on demurrage at the coast of California, when the first cases were revealed on board.

 

The Princess Cruises immediately took measures and, since March 12, completely stopped all routes for 2 months. A similar tactic was applied by other world cruise market players. For example, the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara have ceased operations worldwide since March 13th. These world-famous cruise companies plan to resume operations on May 12, 2020. Costa Cruises cease operations around the world until April 30. Fred Olsen Cruise Line stopped all ocean cruises until May 23. Silversea Cruises plans to return no earlier than May 13; TUI Cruises canceled all cruises until May 3.

 

Definitely, this whole difficult situation effected the cruise business in the countries of the Black Sea region. Strict quarantine measures have been introduced at every port to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.

 

‘For the restore of cruise shipping on the Black Sea, in 2018-2019, Odesa Sea Port Authority conducted a tremendous amount of work. In 2018, during the 52nd General Assembly of the MedCruise Association, the OB SE ‘USPA’ initiated the creation of the Black Sea working group, which included the ports of Constanta (Romania), Varna and Burgas (Bulgaria); a joint action plan was signed, and in October 2018, the first meeting of the Black Sea Working Group was held in Odesa. Representatives of the port authority took an active part in subsequent meetings of the working group, international exhibitions of the cruise industry Seatrade, meetings of the General Assembly; many complex negotiations were held with leading players of the cruise business etc. Unfortunately, all our efforts were crossed by the coronavirus that hit the world’, Ruslan Sakhautdinov, General Manager of Odesa Sea Port Authority said.

 

General Manager further noted that the nearest neighbors of Odesa also got refusals for cruise ship calls to ports. So, along with Odesa Romanian port of Constanta received cancellation of cruise ship calls in May this year. The port of Varna, which was preparing to receive Aegean Odyssey in May, also became a hostage of the circumstances. The Bulgarian port expects the next calls in July. Burgas will host the only cruise ship in October. In its turn, Istanbul, which was preparing to open the largest Galataport cruise terminal on the Black Sea coast in April, plans to postpone the launch of the project. In total, the new terminal of Turkey planned to be visited by 61 cruise ships. However, their number is gradually decreasing.

 

To conclude on a positive note, it should be said that the German company Phoenix Reisen plans two more calls of the MS Amera ship on June 11 and September 9. We hope that these calls will take place. Besides, MS Amera was the first sign that visited the port of Odesa on October 30, 2019, after almost two years of international cruise ships absence. In addition, there is hope that on October 15, the ship Aegean Odyssey will visit the port of Odesa. Other declared vessels are expected to call at the Odesa port in July-October.

 

Press Service of Odesa Sea Port Authority

 

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