Discussions to Restart Malaysian Cruises Are Stalled
Efforts to restart the cruise industry in Malaysia using a model similar to Singapore are continuing but moving slowly according to local officials. The goal is to provide an important source of revenue to the ports and leisure activity for the local population.
Before the pandemic, cruises to nowhere were a large part of the domestic cruise industry. Local officials estimate that two-thirds of the more than one million passengers in 2019 were attracted to the cruises to nowhere aboard the casino cruise ships operating from the cruise terminal in Penang.
The Penang Port and the Port Klang Authority presented a joint proposal to the Ministry of Transport, after receiving input from the cruise terminals in Penang and Port Klang as well as cruise lines, according to The Malaysian Reserve newspaper. While the plan has progressed with a review and discussion at the national level, including the National Security Council, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, and the Ministry of Health, the newspaper reports that the plan appears to be “at a standstill as discussions between port authorities and the federal government have been put on hold.”
Similar to Singapore, the plan was viewed as a test toward restoring travel in the region. It would use many of the same limitations employed in Singapore, including restricting the ship’s capacity and limiting the passengers to Malaysians. There is no timeline for when Malaysia might permit international cruise ships to return to its ports.
Singapore permitted two cruise ships, Genting’s World Dream and Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas to resume short cruises to nowhere in November and December. Passengers are being required to take COVID-19 tests before boarding and maintain precautions aboard, including social distancing and the use of face coverings. Passengers also agree to use a tracking device that permits the cruise ship and officials to determine close contacts during the trip.
Singapore’s tourism and health authorities believe that the protocols developed in coordination with DNV GL are working well. At the beginning of December, there was a COVID scare aboard the Quantum of the Seas with the ship immediately launching a lockdown and returning to Singapore. Passengers and crew observed the protocols and the contract tracing devices permitted them to isolate anyone who might have come in contact with the suspected case. Follow up tests performed at a hospital in Singapore determined that the passenger was not positive for COVID-19.
The sources in Malaysia told the newspaper that there was no timeline for the conclusion of the discussions with the government. They continue to hope that permission would be granted early in 2021 to restart limited cruise operations.