Japanese Cruising Resumes With First Post-COVID Domestic Sailing

nippon maru
File image courtesy MOL

Published Oct 25, 2020 8:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Japanese cruise ship Nippon Maru has resumed domestic service, marking the resumption of cruising in Japan after a long break caused by the COVID-19 shutdown. 

On her first post-coronavirus sailing, Nippon Maru departed the port of Niihama on a short voyage to Sasebo, some 200 nautical miles to the west. Her passengers will disembark in Sasebo for a shore excursion, then reboard for a return voyage, arriving Tuesday. In order to reduce risk, Nippon Maru set sail with a reduced passenger complement, carrying about half as many people as she did in the pre-COVID era. 

If all goes well, Nippon Maru will continue to offer short itineraries between Japanese ports, including Yokohama, Nagoya and Kobe. According to Japan Times, the cruise ship Asuka II is also slated to resume service soon, with operations set to begin in November. 

Both vessels will adhere to the guidelines recently developed by the Japan Oceangoing Passenger Ship Association, which calls for body temperature checks at each embarkation / disembarkation; an evaluation of each passenger's travel history and contact history within the past 14 days; and the use of face masks in indoor public spaces. Crewmembers will have their body temperature checked twice daily and (except as required for customer service) will minimize contact with passengers.

The 1990-built, MOL-operated cruise ship Nippon Maru was last in the news in late 2018, when she allided with a U.S. Navy fueling pier in Apra, Guam. The vessel was maneuvering in a turning basin after getting under way from the harbor’s commercial port. No pollution or injuries were reported, but damage to the vessel was estimated at $450,000, and damage to the mooring dolphins was in excess of $500,000. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the incident was the master's impairment due to alcohol consumption, resulting in an unintended astern engine order.