Restrictions are easing – but questions still remain for the cruise industry


The UK’s maritime industries are looking forward to the easing of UK travel restrictions, which will much relief to ports, passenger shipping routes and the businesses that support them.

From 10 July, UK tourists will not have to self-isolate when travelling to or returning from countries with a “travel corridor” exemption, which have been deemed as low risk in terms of coronavirus transmission.

France, Spain and Belgium are among the countries that have an exemption and with which the UK major ferry links.

Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are also exempt because they are part of the common travel area.

Now, the UK’s maritime businesses are looking forward to regaining some normality.

Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, welcomed the arrival of the travel corridor scheme, saying it “allows for resumption of full international passenger services, and families can now plan and book their holidays”.

During the height of the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, freight has continued to travel by sea between Europe and the UK, but passenger numbers have been hit hard.

Passenger revenue supports the UK’s critical supply routes and the Government has needed to step in to guarantee minimum levels of service to protect the nation’s critical supply chains.

Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, which represents a large number of ports in the UK, including its main passenger and ferry ports, said the resumption of travel will help the UK’s tourism and maritime sectors to recover.

“Ferry travel, in particular, is one of the safest modes for passenger travel as social distancing is far easier to maintain and use of public transport to the terminal is minimal,” he said.

“Opening up these safe corridors also supports the economic resilience of critical supply chains that move freight on these same services.”

The removal of travel restrictions is also good news for the UK’s recreational sailing sector and the ancillary businesses it supports, which were badly hit while the lockdown was in force.

The industry is represented by trade organisation British Marine, which is looking forward to seeing a boost in activity and trade, but expects the public will be cautious.

“Our inland holiday hire businesses are seeing unprecedented levels of enquiries and bookings, although we are still not back to where we were, so although certain overseas destinations are now permissible, we believe that many Brits will play it safe and staycation for this and possibly next year,” said Brian Clark, British Marine’s head of public affairs, policy & research.

Many boating holidays for this year have been deferred to next year, “so 2021 is already filling up,” Clark added.

“The removal of quarantine will certainly be good for our exporting businesses, meaning members can start to travel again to meet with their distributors,” Clark said.

The news also good for those looking to attend overseas boat shows, he said, although many have already been cancelled.

Now the challenge is to get the cruise industry up and running again safely.

Ballantyne said the British Ports Association will continue to work constructively with the Government to allow cruise ports to reopen safely.

“This won’t be rushed but the cruise sector certainly has experience implementing health control measures and will definitely return, when it is safe to do so,” said Ballantyne.

“The UK has a great maritime tourist offer and we are excited that things are finally beginning to open up.”