Premier Andrew Fahie has said the government’s decision to allow empty cruise ships to make warm lay-ups to the territory symbolises a beacon of hope for the economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
A warm lay-up describes a situation where a cruise ship docks at a port with a reduced number of crew members as well as reduced maintenance of the vessel while its essential machinery and mechanical systems are kept in operation.
When BVI News asked how much the territory is expecting to earn from these warm lay-ups, Premier Fahie did not give a direct response.
The Premier also neglected to say whether the government has engaged any cruise lines so far or when the first cruise line will dock in the territory.
He, however, assured that the few crew members on board these cruise vessels will not pose any health threats to the BVI public.
“The initiative does not involve passengers but only crew. They will only layover to refuel and provisioning. No one would be coming off the ship. However, all health protocols will be adhered to at all times, especially when provisioning and refuelling,” Premier Fahie said.
He continued: “In addition, the cruise liners will be doing testing of their crew for COVID-19 periodically. We are confident that our health protocols coupled with those of the cruise liners will last the test of time in this initiative.”
‘Ships can berth during warm/hot lay-up up to a year’
Providing technical expertise on the matter of warm lay-ups, the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) said in a subsequent media release on Saturday that a ‘technical cruise ship call’ implies that “a vessel would be allowed pratique of short duration, from several hours to three days”.
On the other hand, the BVIPA said, “warm or hot layup allows a vessel to be docked for longer periods of time, in some instances up to a year”.
“During this time the vessel is out of service, but can be mobilised into service at a short notice. Warm layup entails a reduced level of crewing and assumes a reduction in regular fuel consumption, repairs/maintenance costs,” the Ports Authority said.
The BVIPA further said, “the economic benefits of extending technical calls or warm layups include ships carrying out refuelling, repair and start-up activities in the territory”.
All of this happens without any crew members disembarking. Cruise vessels will be allowed to berthing at the BVIPA’s Tortola Cruise Pier and its Port Purcell dock “under strict health and safety rules”.
As cruise lines have been forced to suspend operations because of COVID-19, most are in search of ports to dock and maintain their vessels as they wait for the pandemic to subside.
In the meantime, the government has not yet given a date when the BVI is expected to start accepting tourists to its shores.
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