Penang steers ‘cruises to nowhere’

Ready to set sail: ‘Taipan’, one of Genting Cruise Lines’ ships docked at SPCT, will be providing the ‘cruises to nowhere’.

GEORGE TOWN: With international cruise liners expected to call on Malaysian ports only in the third quarter of 2022, Penang has shifted its focus on “cruises to nowhere” with limited passengers.

Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) chief executive officer Datuk Sasedharan Vasudevan said an official request had been made to the Transport and Health ministries and National Security Council last year to start the service with strict Covid-19 standard operating procedure in place.

“This was before the imposition of the movement control order again and we are awaiting approval.

“The Transport Ministry is very supportive of our request for the service as we have only asked that the service begin on a 50% capacity so that there would be much room for social distancing.

“There are presently three liners waiting to provide the service, one of them operated by a renowned cruise company, ” he said.

Singapore, he noted, had begun such a service sometime ago.

“We can get local cruisers to move, as international liners will only come when the borders are opened and flight operations resume, ” he said.

Sasedharan said the cruise industry was closely interlinked with the airlines and hotel industries as passengers fly down to home ports to take a cruise, such as to Singapore in this region or Barcelona in Europe.

“The airlines and hotel industries must be back on their feet before cruise liners can start moving again and we will see this happening in the third quarter of next year.

“Furthermore, the Covid-19 vaccinations being carried out presently in many countries will have to be completed or the potential passengers on cruise liners must be vaccinated before they could travel, ” he said.

Sasedharan said the RM155mil Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal’s (SPCT) expansion would be completed by July and the port ready to receive two Quantum-class liners when they come calling next year.

“We are in a good position and will wait for international cruise liners to call on the port, ” he added.

Malaysia issued a blanket ban on cruise ships in March 2020 when the Covid-19 cases were on the rise.

One of the last Quantum-class liners to call on SPCT was the newly-built Quantum of the Seas, which arrived in May 2019.

The Quantum is a class of super cruise ships from Royal Caribbean International.

A report by Singapore daily The Straits Times this week said that since the nation started its “cruises to nowhere” pilot in November, more than 82,000 people had set sail on cruises, with no Covid-19 cases on board.

The two operators permitted to operate these round trips with no ports of call are Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International.

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