GEORGE TOWN: International cruise liners are ready to dock at Malaysian ports again after a nearly two-year hiatus, with Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) and Port Klang Authority (PKA) expecting business to resume as soon as December or next January at the latest.
Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, Malaysia had issued a blanket ban on cruise ships in March 2020.
With the Langkawi international tourism bubble initiative set to take off mid-November, things are looking brighter.
“The Langkawi bubble is the benchmark for cruise ships to call again, with mid-December being the most likely date that the government may give the go-ahead,” said PKA general manager Capt K. Subramaniam.
“Cruise liner agents are so optimistic that ships would start sailing to this part of the region again soon that they have started receiving bookings for Singapore-Penang-Phuket packages,” he added.
Capt Subramaniam said the standard operating procedure for cruise liners was presented at the most recent meeting between the National Security Council (NSC), the Health Ministry and the Transport Ministry.
“Our proposal to bring in cruise ships again was accepted favourably, with the success of the Langkawi international bubble set to pave the way for the cruise business to resume,” he said, adding that he was quite hopeful the blanket ban would be lifted soon mainly due to the high vaccination rate in the country.
“We are not even looking at cruise-to-nowhere as a prelude as everything is in place for us to receive international passengers now”.PPSB chief executive officer Datuk Sasedharan Vasudevan said he expected the government to give the green light to international cruise liners in January.
“However, we are ready if they decide to lift the ban in December as we have completed the RM155mil Swettenham Port Cruise Terminal which can now take in two Oasis class ships.
“The Langkawi bubble will be the benchmark. In fact, we are much safer as the SOP only allows cruise liners to run at 50% capacity, unlike the hotels which are running at 80% to 90% capacity.
“We are aware that agents are promoting packages as this is the best time for European tourists to come to the Far East due to the winter season there.
“Singapore is also waiting for us to move and Royal Caribbean Liners is looking at a Singapore-Penang-Phuket package which could take off as soon as possible.
“It is a viable move as we are looking at the immense spinoff for local players once international cruise ships land at our ports.”
Sasedharan added that the cruise-to-nowhere, which was earlier set to resume this month, has been pushed back to December as the revised SOP has just been released.