Coronavirus Cancels Events, Cruise Vessels Ponder Ban

As the scale of the coronavirus challenge is coming into focus, the World Health Organization finally declared it a pandemic after what some critics deemed unaccountable delays. Trade organizations around the world have begun canceling meetings, dealing further blows to airlines and hotels. Reaction to the virus sent the U.S. stock market into bear territory for the first time since the financial crisis of 2008.

The American Association of Port Authorities announced March 11 that it was cancelling its March 17–19 Spring Conference event in Washington, D.C.

In an email, Aaron Ellis, public affairs director for AAPA, wrote that the cancellation was “due to an abundance of caution and in the best interests for the safety, health and well-being of its many members and supporters in light of the coronavirus pandemic.”

He added, “It’s disappointing to cancel this annual port industry conference, particularly since AAPA had planned an excellent agenda with high-ranking government officials, public policy influencers, and business and port authority leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere who were lined up to make presentations and lead discussions on public port challenges, successes and lessons learned that are making national and international news. These concerns, however, pale in comparison to the importance of keeping people healthy and assisting authorities in their efforts to contain the virus and get the necessary care and attention to those who need it.”

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GNOBFA Seminar Canceled

After the print version of the March 16 edition of The Waterways Journal went to press, the Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association announced that the association’s annual seminar, scheduled for April 22–24, is canceled for this year.

“Because of the serious concerns expressed with the spread of the Covid-19 virus along with travel restrictions implemented by some companies and following the actions recommended by national, local health officials and the mayor of New Orleans, the GNOBFA Seminar committee and Board of Governors have determined it would be impossible and imprudent to proceed with the 2020 River and Marine Industry [Seminar] that was scheduled for April 22-24,” GNOBFA said in an email to seminar registrants late March 12.  “The health and safety of our attendees is our priority. Accordingly, the 2020 GNOBFA River and Marine Industry Seminar has been CANCELLED.”

IMX Still On, Situation Being Monitored

Jennifer DeLuca, trade show manager for the Inland Marine Expo planned for May 18–20 in St. Louis and sponsored by The Waterways Journal, said in an email, “Inland Marine Expo (IMX) event planning status has NOT changed. We will continue to monitor the recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19/Coronavirus and will update accordingly.”

All those planning to attend IMX should monitor the IMX website ( for the latest updates.

Cruise Vessels Ponder Ban

According to Politico, the White House is considering banning all cruise vessel travel. Cruise ships have been among the worst hit venues by coronavirus so far, with more than 700 cases linked to one vessel alone, the Diamond Princess. The State Department and CDC have warned elderly and medically fragile Americans to avoid cruise ships for the duration of the outbreak, with the CDC recommending that travelers “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.” Princess Cruise Lines announced that it is suspending its global operations for 60 days; two of its ships’ passengers are in quarantine. According to USA Today, all Princess Line operations will be suspended March 12 to May 10.

“It is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, said in a release.

Some Cruise Companies Suspend Operations

The blue-water cruise ship industry’s trade association, Cruise Lines International Association, has proposed self-restrictions, including refusing boarding to anyone over 70 without a doctor’s note, in order to hold off a ban on all cruise ship travel. But those measures may not be enough to stop a ban. At press time, it was unclear whether such an order, if it is issued, would apply to inland river cruises.

However, some river cruise companies are already suspending operations. Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen announced that his company, one of the largest cruise operators, would be temporarily suspending operations of all river and ocean cruises embarking from March 12 to April 30.

“We believe Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences our guests expect and deserve,” Hagen wrote in a note posted on the company website on March 11. “This is a decision we made with a heavy heart, but with present circumstances what they are, we are unable to deliver the high-quality Viking experience for which we are known.”

Inland Cruise Operators Release Statement

The Passenger Vessel Association, which represents brown-water cruise operators, released a statement March 11.

“Recognizing the importance of undertaking actions to combat the spread of coronavirus in the United States, the members of the PVA are committed to protecting the health and safety of both passengers and crew.

“It is important for the traveling public to understand that most U.S.-flagged passenger vessels are small businesses operating short duration trips of just a few hours,” said PVA President Colleen Stephens. “Whether dinner boats, ferries or whale watch vessels, which are U.S.-built and crewed by U.S. citizens, we have much in common with shore-side restaurants and other attractions.”

PVA members operate small passenger vessels that provide transportation, environmental, educational and entertainment experiences on the waters of the United States.

PVA recommends that its members strictly adhere to well-documented guidelines and procedures to combat the spread of Coronavirus, such as those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For passengers, PVA said, that means:

Ensuring that employees who are ill or displaying signs of illness (fever, cough) do not come to work;

Sanitizing (not merely cleaning) areas of the vessel in which passengers and crew come into contact;

Mandating that all employees frequently wash their hands according to recommended procedures;

Emphasize the utmost levels of cleanliness during food preparation, serving and clean-up; and

Partnering with agencies and operators that book or sell tours to ensure that any guest identified with possible signs be immediately reported to crews so that a determination can be made whether the guest will take the excursion or not.

AWO Issues Virus Guidance

On March 4, the American Waterways Operators posted a “COVID-19 Contingency Planning Guide for Towing Vessels and Barge Operators” that reproduces selected information from the Centers for Disease control on how best to protect employees and crews against the coronavirus.

Some of the document’s information came from the CDC’s February 18 guidance for cruise ships and passenger vessels.