Coronavirus related restrictions against foreign cruise and ferry passengers have led to a 90-pct loss of related ports’ income and the industry finds it unfair as the air checkpoints enjoy some exemptions.
By RF Government’s Order dated 16 March 2020 (No. 635-Russia), entry of foreign citizens and stateless persons into the territory of the Russian Federation was temporarily restricted until further notice. Issuance of visas and invitations was also temporarily suspended. Meanwhile, citizens of some states (quite a long list) are allowed to enter the Russian Federation via air checkpoints whereas no tourists arriving by cruise liners, passenger ships or ferries are allowed to enter Russia. That constraint means a considerable loss of revenues for passenger terminals and a loss of their previous investments in reconstruction and modernization.
According to information received by IAA PortNews, some 40 calls of passenger ships have been cancelled in the Far East. The port of Vladivostok rejected the application of Costa Asia which was planning up to 10 Japanese cruises with the calls to the capital of Primorje in 2021. Costa Serena of that cruise operator has not been able to call the port of Korsakov this year. There were 10 more calls planned for the season. NCL failed to arrange a call of its Norwegian Jewel to the port of Vladivostok planned under a preparation for the cruise season in Alaska. The port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky cancelled more than 15 calls planned for 2021. At the same time, Alaska cruises have been resumed in the USA from July 2021.
Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg “Marine Façade” has seen no cruise ships from the season of 2020 while its Baltic neighbors are happy to welcome tourists that cannot visit Russia with cruise terminals having resumed their operation in July. The Port of Tallinn is open for ships of German cruise companies (Aida Cruises, Mein Shiff (TUI), Phoenix Reisen) and US companies (Celebrity Cruises, Oceana Cruises). According to statistics available at crew-center.com, the Port of Tallinn has already welcomed 26 calls of ships with more than 100,000 passengers. On the average, one cruise passenger is believed to spend EUR 120 per day at a port of call.
Scandinavian companies, Tallink & Silja Line and Viking Line have resumed regular voyages on the Baltic Sea from July 2021. As for Russian ferry operator, St Peter Line, it is still out of activities this year.
The only cruise ship operating at Russia’s Black Sea port Sochi is the Knyaz Vladimir deployed for a coastwise cruise line launched by FSUE Rosmorport in June 2021. Marebo Shipping Company, Turkish operator of cruise ships arranging voyages between Sochi to Turkey, failed to obtain a permit from Rosprirodnadzor for operation in July and August 2021. The port is looking into launching other cruise routes in autumn 2021 as well as international ferry lines from Sochi to Bulgaria and Turkey. But all the projects are under the threat of failure.
In that respect, the Association of Commercial Sea Ports (ASOP) addressed Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin with a proposal to include passenger and passenger/freight checkpoints of seaports into the list of facilities covered by the RF Government’s decree (IAA PortNews has a copy of the letter). In its turn, the Association of Commercial Sea Ports, in the name of the related ports, guarantees compliance with the epidemiological measures.
“With the enhanced safety protocols for passenger ships, cruise liners are 'clean zones' with only ‘clean’ passengers onboard and the crew complying with all sanitary-epidemiological requirements. Operators of marine passenger terminals, in their turn, are ready to ensure compliance with the sanitary-epidemiological requirements”, says the letter.
According to ASOP, Russia’s major passenger ports and terminals in Saint-Petersburg, Sochi, Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky operated by Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg “Marine Façade” JSC, Sea Port of Sochi JSC, Sea Terminal of Vladivostok LLC and FSUE Rosmorport accordingly had to completely terminate their activities on servicing passengers of cruise ships.
In its letter to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova (IAA PortNews has a copy of the letter), Sea Port of Sochi JSC asks for an assistance in obtaining permits for opening of a cruise line for Russian citizens on the Sochi-Sasun-Amastra-Istanbul- Zonguldak-Sinop-Trabzo-Sochi route that foresees calls in ports of Turkey.
As Sea Port of Sochi JSC told IAA PortNews, “Restrictions imposed in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the activities of Sochi seaport. Most of calls announced by foreign cruise ships for 2021 have been cancelled. Besides, opening of the company’s own regular lines including a passenger line to Georgia and a freight/passenger line to Turkey planned for 2021 is still questionable. Revenues from calls of foreign cruise ships and opening of the company’s own lines planned for 2021 make some 48% of revenues from services in the port’s 2021 budget estimate”.
Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg “Marine Façade” JSC told IAA PortNews that the constraints result in the loss of up to 90% of the terminal’s revenues.
“From 2020 until today cruise/ferry navigation has been suspended at the facilities of PP SPb MF. The calls of cruise ships and ferries ensure up to 90% of the company’s income. According to data of December 2020 the schedule for 2021 numbered some 380 calls at the company’s facilities (Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg, Sea Terminal and berths on the Angliyskaya and Leytenanta Shmidta embankments). It should be also noted that PP SPb MF is ready for a pilot welcoming of cruise ships and ferries at any moment with respect of epidemiological safety standards.”
Notably, the above mentioned restrictions have a high negative impact on the passenger infrastructure in seaports while pushing Russia out of the recovering global tourism which can bring negative consequences to the industry over the long run.
Experts addressed by IAA PortNews believe that without resolving the cruise problem in Russia in the near time the industry will see enormous losses for some years to come.
“Due to the current restrictions applicable to passengers of cruise ships and ferries at marine checkpoints, port authorities and port industry players have millions of dollars of lost income, - Igor Glukhov, General Director of Intermarine Cruise Ferry Management (port agent and shipping expert), told IAA PortNews. – Uncertainty about the prospects of opening Russia for passenger ships forces regular customers of cruise and ferry companies leave for other countries and regions. For example, the closest neighboring of Saint-Petersburg, the Port of Tallinn welcomes more than 20 large cruise ships this summer. Those ships would certainly call Saint-Petersburg if not for the ban. That is 100,000 passengers. Several projects on the Black Sea, in Sochi, run the risk of disruption, ship calls cancelled in the Far East, invlad and Korsakov.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars, both private and state resources, have been invested in infrastructure construction at passenger ports of Russia. The ports’ idle period will affect detrimentally the tourism sector of port cities and will harm the entire nautical tourism industry, both financially and reputationally.
“If this situation does not change, there is a high risk of Russian seaport’s customer base disruption for many years to come since the schedule for cruise ships and ferries covers a period of up to 24 months, - says Igor Glukhov. – Therefore, Russian ports should be unblocked without delay.”