GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia has issued a blanket ban on all cruise ships coming into the country due to the increasing Covid-19 cases, putting further strain on the tourism industry.
The immediate ban took effect following instructions from the Health Ministry and Transport Ministry.
Penang Port Commission issued a circular to ship owners, agents, vessel owners, port authorities and terminal operators, citing the ministries which said all cruise vessels are temporarily restricted from entering any Malaysian port until further notice.
It said in view of the decision by the Health Ministry, all cruise vessels are restricted from entering the limits of Penang Port with immediate effect until further notice.
Port Klang Authority (PKA), which also issued a similar statement, said while it acknowledged that the cruise industry is an important component, this temporary measure was necessary.
PKA general manager Capt K. Subramaniam said during this difficult period, it is vital that more medical resources are concentrated on hospitals to attend to medical emergencies and undertake preventive measures.
“We are hopeful that this is a temporary measure and with concerted efforts of all parties, it will be resolved soonest possible, ” he said.
Penang recorded an overwhelming increase in cruise passengers last year. It registered 354,507 passengers in 2018. The number went up to 449,885 passengers last year.
The number of vessels arriving has also increased from 185 to 198 last year.
Port Klang received 360,000 passengers last year compared to 300,000 in 2018, with 150 cruise liners calling on the port last year.
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said he is aware the directive came from the Transport Ministry.
“Although it could affect the tourism industry, it’s too big a risk.”
Malaysia joins several countries which has banned cruise ships from entering their ports. They include Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, according to an aljazeera.com report last month.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has detected 10 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, bringing the total number to 93.