Cruise ships in Japan are cautiously resuming domestic operations eight months on from the forced halt to cruise ship operations country wide, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Nippon Maru and The Asuka II were the first to set sail.
1. Setting sail
The Japan Times reported that the Nippon Maru, operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Passenger Lines sailed out of Niihama Port in Ehime on October 25 for a three-day journey, while NYK Cruises’ Asuka II sailed on November 2, departing on a four-day journey from Yokohamato nearby Shimizu Port, in Shizuoka.
2. Guidelines for sail
The Japan Times also stated that guidelines for infection prevention measures necessary to resume cruise ship services had already been created in September, by the Japan Oceangoing Passenger Ship Association and the Ports & Harbors Association of Japan. These guidelines include checking passengers’ health conditions and travel histories in the two weeks before boarding, as well as sufficient social distancing among passengers on board, using contact-tracing applications, and also encouraging face masks and disinfectants.
Sasebo city and Shizuoka Prefecture, which manage the ports of the two ships’ respective destinations, have apparently adopted the measures based on the guidelines, and Shizuoka Prefecture is also prohibiting general visitors from entering the pier of Shimizu port.
3. Reduced capacity
Taiwan and Singapore, which have also permitted the resumption of domestic cruises, have enforced sailing with reduced capacity, and both Japanese cruise ships are also abiding by this. The Nippon Maru, with a usual capacity of 530 people, has limited the number of guests to around 200, with 100 crew members, according to The Japan Times. It is also reported that the Asuka II crew members conducted a two-day drill ahead of the ships’ sailing, to practise the response protocols required of a potential coronavirus outbreak, including isolating and transporting the infected passengers.
4. Efforts in the future
The Japan Times reported that the transport ministry is considering supporting infection prevention measures at passenger terminals by subsidising costs for separating passengers, setting up body temperature measuring devices and introducing medical-use tents to house those feeling unwell. The ministry’s aid programme is expected to be launched in fiscal 2021 in order to encourage cruise ship travel.