Seychelles to Reopen for Cruise Industry in November
The Seychelles, which was one of the first nations to announce a total ban on cruise ships in 2020, now intends to reopen in time for the lucrative winter 2021 cruise season. Authorities in the Indian Ocean archipelago, reversed their May 2020 decision banning all cruise ships till 2022 saying that cruise ships with a maximum of 300 passengers will be permitted starting in mid-November to dock in Port Victoria and cruise in the country's waters.
In May 2020, the Seychelles drew international attention when the government announced that it had decided to ban all cruise ships for two years in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Seychelles now joins a growing number of countries across North America, the Caribbean, and Europe that are easing restrictions and facilitating cruise lines to resume operations. Asia, including China and Australia, however, continue to delay the restart of operations by large cruise ships. The Seychelles explored reopening the cruise ship industry in March 2021, but the plans were delayed due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The decision to reopen the Seychelles follows the rollout of an ambitious vaccination campaign that has seen the country become one of the highest vaccinated nations in the world. To facilitate the reopening, the government established a COVID-19 company and cruise ship checklist to facilitate the safe re-start of operations. The checklist, which was developed in line with the European Maritime Safety Agency and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines, outlines the duties and authorities of the agencies in Seychelles, the passenger terminal arrangements at all ports of call, the contingencies in case of a COVID-19 outbreak and generally the coordination between cruises and ports in relation to COVID-19.
“This is for cruise ship operators to follow in order that the ships adopt minimum safety measures to be implemented in their operations in Seychelles,” Alan Renaud, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Principal Secretary told the Seychelles News Agency.
Tourism is a significant part of the country's economy, making up the second biggest industry in the Seychelles after commercial fishing. Last year, tourism revenues plunged by 61 percent, a loss of $322 million, with tourist arrivals dropping by 70 percent. Before the onset of the pandemic, the Seychelles welcomed 384,204 visitors in 2019, of which 63,442 came from cruise ships, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. The Port of Victoria received 39 cruise ship calls during the 2019/2020 season, with the last vessel permitted to arrive being Ponant's Le Bougainville in March 2020.
Currently, it is anticipated that the Island Sky, operated by London-based Noble Caledonia, will open the season with calls to four of Seychelles’ outer islands of Aldabra, Assumption, Farquhar and Cosmoledo. The 4,200 gross ton cruise ship accommodates just 118 passengers.
Historically, the Seychelles also received larger cruise ships, but the government has differed a decision on opening the port more broadly due to ongoing fears over the potential spread of the virus.