THE federal government last week extended restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels into Australia until at least 17 February.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt said the government continues to work “constructively” with the cruise ship industry. He said the federal government was working alongside state and territory governments to enable a “phased resumption” of cruising in Australia on the basis of medical advice.

The Cruise Lines International Association said the extension of the restrictions, which have been in place since March 2020, was “another devastating blow to the 18,000 Australians whose livelihoods depend on cruise tourism”.

CLIA managing director Australasia Joel Katz said Australia had become the only major cruise market in the world without an agreed plan to resume cruising, which is ordinarily worth more than $5 billion a year to the Australian economy.

“The suspension of cruising has been devastating for the 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.

“In other countries close to five million people have already sailed successfully under the cruise industry’s extensive new health protocols. We need federal and state governments to use the coming weeks for genuine discussions with the cruise industry so we can plan a similar revival in Australia.”

Mr Katz said the extension of Australia’s cruise ban was a further disappointment for thousands of cruise fans who faced uncertainty around their future holiday plans.

“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 successful in mitigating the risks of COVID-19,” Mr Katz said.

“With vaccination rates increasing and borders opening, we need agreement on the way forward throughout Australia so there can be a careful revival of cruise tourism in communities around the country.”

Mr Katz said it would take several months of preparations before cruise ships could return to Australian waters.

“Cruising involves long lead-times, so it is essential that the industry can work closely with all governments and health authorities to establish detailed operational plans ahead of resumption,” Mr Katz said.