Kenya delays commissioning of $3m cruise terminal due to Covid-19 disruption

By ANTHONY KITIMO

Kenya will have to wait until August to commission the new $3 million cruise terminal at the Port of Mombasa as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the global cruise industry.

The state-of-the-art terminal, which was completed about two years ago, was built to attract more cruise passengers and spur growth in the vital tourism industry, which accounts for 4.4% of gross domestic product.

Travel preparation

The East African nation is the third largest travel and tourism destination in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa and Nigeria.

“With the current government’s efforts to curb infections with declining numbers and compliance by locals, we are optimistic to begin travel in August when the seasons begin,” said Haji Masemo, Kenya’s communications officer. Ports Authority (KPA).

Located at Pier 1 of the Port of Mombasa, the terminal includes duty-free shops, restaurants, conference rooms and offices with a capacity of 2,000 passengers.

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The terminal is expected to position Kenya as a premier cruise tourism destination and allow the country to compete with countries like South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Cape Verde and Zanzibar.

The Kenyan government estimates that once commissioned, the terminal will create nearly 300 direct jobs and boost local industries, such as the transport sector, hotels, restaurants and handicraft vendors.

Low Covid-19 vaccination rates in East Africa have also contributed to delaying the resumption of cruise ship operations in the Indian Ocean, with South Africa launching its first cruise ship in November of Last year.

Resumption of operations

According to one of the region’s local cruise ship handling agents, Inchcape Shipping Limited, the resumption of cruise operations will be determined by the rate of vaccinations and other measures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19. .

Inchcape’s director of maritime operations, Bwanaheri Lali, said once voyages resume, it will make a big difference to the East African port.

“The low vaccination rate in East Africa, and even more so in Kenya, which determines the cruise schedule, is delaying the resumption of cruise ship activities. But the Department of Health has promised to come up with protocols for cruise ships to ensure leisure travel can resume,” he said.

“We expect to resume this year and already cruise lines have started booking to make calls as the government pushes harder to improve vaccination rates and other plans to contain the virus.”

Mr Lali said the resumption of cruise ship operations would be an important step for Kenya after more than two years of disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world’s largest family cruise liner, MSC Cruises, has announced the resumption of mainland operations after various port states eased Covid-19 measures.

South Africa is the first country to take advantage of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) cruise voyages, which started in November 2021.

MSC said it would reconfirm the planned cruise schedule for the 2021/22 season and publish new cruise dates in due course as it plans to return to the mainland.

“We now look forward to welcoming our South African guests on board in the near future for a wonderful vacation with a health and safety protocol that has led the way in the global cruise industry. We are delighted that the new measures allow cruise ships to operate in accordance with national health protocols,” the company said.

Covid Precautions

Various governments have issued cruise regulations where, among other things, cruise ship crew must screen all passengers for symptoms of Covid-19 when they embark, and also carry out antigen tests.

Screening will continue each time you enter an entertainment venue or dining room.

Regulations require that a passenger who shows a symptom of Covid-19 be accommodated in a special isolation cabin, while contact tracing is initiated.

There will be a similar check every time you disembark during a voyage, and again when you return to the ship.

Any excursion or boarding must also be staggered, in order to respect social distancing measures, and can only take place outside the curfew.

Kenya plans to open its cruise terminal, which has been idle in the port of Mombasa, with six cruise ships that were due to call last year canceled due to the pandemic.

Kenya projects

In an earlier interview, Kenya Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said plans are underway to introduce a door-to-door cruise operator that will diversify the country’s tourism offerings.

“We are working on arrangements with cruise liners in Miami, South Florida, for a home-based cruise operator to do the Indian Ocean circuit,” Balala said.

A recent survey by Tourism and Transport Consult International on the potential for cruise tourists to Kenya showed that Mombasa could easily attract 140,000 passengers per year.

In 2015, Kenya made the most of the proceeds after 10 cruise ships carrying 6,000 tourists called at the port.

The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) reports that tourist arrivals to the coastal region of Kenya in July 2017-June 2018 increased by double digits over the previous financial year, boosting the total number of tourist arrivals in Kenya by 6.8% to 1,488,370 against 1,393,568 in 2016/2017. .