THE Australian government will not renew the ban on international cruise ships arriving and departing from Australian ports when the current ban ends on 17 April.

In March 2020, following the global spread of COVID-19, the federal government banned the entry of large, international cruise vessels into Australia under the Biosecurity Act 2015. That same month, cruise lines suspended services to Australia.

The government said the ban has been “highly effective in preventing and controlling the entry, emergence and spread of COVID-19 in Australian territory”.

While lifting the ban, the government is introducing measures to reduce risk, including:

  • enhanced pre-arrival reporting and identification of COVID-19 risk through more questions of passengers and improved processes;
  • amendments to the Biosecurity (Negative pratique) Instrument 2016 to ensure cruise vessels always arrive in negative pratique (that is, permission to unload passengers and cargo);
  • stress tests of the emergency response system in relation to cruises;
  • engagement with the cruise industry on safe resumption; and
  • a requirement that passengers be double vaccinated.

International cruise ships will still need to meet all state and territory public health requirements of the jurisdiction into which they berth. State and territories will advise their readiness to receive cruise ships.

Federal minister for health Greg Hunt said the decision allow the ban to lapse is based on medical advice.

“On the basis of medical advice and with the agreement of National Cabinet, lifting the cruise ban is consistent with the reopening of Australia’s international border and shows that we have successfully navigated Australia’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Hunt said.

Minister for home affairs Karen Andrews said the Australian Border Force stands ready to welcome international cruise ship passengers and crew back to Australia.

“In 2019, before the pandemic, Australia welcomed more than 600,000 cruise ship passengers across the border from almost 350 vessels,” Ms Andrews said.

“The cruise ship industry plays an important role in our tourism sector and forms part of the Morrison Government’s plan to bolster our economic growth as we recover from the pandemic.

Minister for trade, tourism and investment Dan Tehan said the resumption of cruising in Australia was an important milestone in the government’s COVID-19 response.

“This is great news for the cruise industry, tourism, the broader economy and the Australians who love to take a cruise holiday,” Mr Tehan said.

“The resumption of cruising is another key step forward in the tourism sector’s recovery from COVID-19.”

Cruise Lines International Association welcomed the confirmation that the cruise ban would be lifted.

CLIA managing director Australasia Joel Katz said the suspension of cruising over the past two years has cost the Australian economy more than $10 billion.

“Today’s announcement is a huge breakthrough for more than 18,000 Australians who depend on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, entertainers, port workers and many other industry suppliers,” Mr Katz said.

He said more than 8 million people had already sailed in more than 80 other countries where cruising had resumed, with stringent new health measures in place.

“Cruising has changed enormously in response to the pandemic and the work our industry has done with medical experts internationally has resulted in health protocols that are among the most extensive to be found anywhere in world tourism,” Mr Katz said.

“These protocols span the entirety of the cruise experience and provide some of the highest possible levels of prevention, detection, and mitigation, including vaccination and testing requirements for all passengers and crew before boarding.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry likewise welcomed the end of the ban.

ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said a firm restart date means the cruise industry can begin to recover.

“Lifting the ban on international cruises is a critical step that will not only benefit the cruise industry and its employees, but also thousands of tourism businesses that rely on these travellers who are keen to get back on board and enjoy a cruise,” Mr McKellar said.

And the Northern Territory government also welcomed the end of the cruise ban. 

Territory tourism minister Natasha Fyles said the the cruise industry is a key driver for the Top End tourism sector, and prior to COVID, the territory was seeing $60 million in annual expenditure as a result.

“This decision to enable cruising to safely resume in Australia will be a very welcome boost to local operators and retailers,” Ms Fyles said.

“With vaccinated international visitors returning to Australia last month, safely re-opening cruising will provide visitors with another reason and travel option to come and experience the territory.”

Luxury expedition cruise line Ponant chair Asia Pacific Sarina Bratton said her company applauds the decision to allow cruise operations in Australian waters to recommence.

“The international expedition sector is a major contributor to Indigenous Australians along the Kimberley coastline, and significant contributors to the tourism economies of both the Northern Territory and Australia’s north west,” Ms Bratton said.