JAXPORT to Accommodate Displaced Florida Cruise Ships

Norwegian Sky
file photo of Norwegian Sky

Published Mar 15, 2020 4:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

Four cruise ships, including JAXPORT’s regular home-ported ship Carnival Ecstasy which is already in port, will dock at JAXPORT and remain at the port during the cruise industry’s voluntary suspension of U.S. cruise operations due to coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The additional three vessels will arrive in Jacksonville, Florida, with only crew members on board and then lay idle due to berth capacity constraints at PortMiami, where all three vessels are regularly home-ported. The crew will likely remain on the vessels while the ships are in Jacksonville, unless an exception is deemed necessary by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Carnival Ecstasy arrived at JAXPORT as scheduled on Saturday. Following passenger debarkation, the vessel and her crew will remain docked at the ship’s regular location at the JAXPORT Cruise Terminal.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky is scheduled to arrive at JAXPORT’s Talleyrand Marine Terminal on Sunday, and the company’s Norwegian Pearl is scheduled to dock at the port’s Dames Point Marine Terminal this week. An additional vessel, Norwegian Gem, will dock at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal. Her arrival date is still being determined.

The vessels and their crew must be cleared by the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP upon their arrivals in Jacksonville, which is standard procedure.

“We are committed to doing our part to support our fellow Florida ports and our partners in the cruise industry during this time,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “We will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local agencies to monitor the situation and adjust operations as needed.”

Idling at a port rather than at sea increases fuel efficiencies and provides easy access to necessary provisions for crew members and the ships.

The JAXPORT main administrative office located at 2831 Talleyrand Avenue will be closed to all visitors until further notice, but all JAXPORT marine terminals remain open and operational.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released the following statement related to U.S. ports and returning ships on Sunday: "U.S. ports are open to returning ships, and passengers are able to disembark and fly home as confirmed by a National Interest Exemption (Exemption) issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 13, 2020. This includes passengers who are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign diplomats. Non-U.S. citizens will be able to fly home to their home countries.

"As a result of this Exemption, CLIA and FCCA have requested that all ports in the Caribbean, South America and other areas keep their ports open to cruise ships sailing on itineraries related to U.S. ports to allow passengers to return as soon as possible to their homes."

Approximately 40 ships and 90,000 passengers were at sea at the time of the CLIA's voluntary and temporary suspension. Of those 40 ships, 29 were in the midst of their itineraries, and 11 had departed that evening. On March 16, 11 of these 40 ships will complete their sailings; the remaining have various dates of return out to March 30. Over the 30-day period, approximately 500 cruises and 1.2 million passengers will be impacted by suspended itineraries.

The direct impact on the U.S. economy over 30 days will be a loss of $1 billion (in direct spending), $14 million in wages, and 6,500 U.S. jobs. Total economic impact to the U.S. (direct, indirect, and induced) is estimated at $2.3 billion in spending, $800 million in wages, and 15,500 jobs. (Source: BREA/CLIA Economic Impact Study 2018)