Kenya is looking beyond the challenges posed by Covid-19 as it seeks to position the country as a top cruise tourism destination globally.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) said cruise ship sector will bounce back once Covid-19 pandemic is contained.
Like almost every sector of the economy, tourism has been adversely affected by the effects of the pandemic. Kenya’s Sh1.3 billion cruise ship terminal is lying idle at the Port of Mombasa with six cruise ships which were expected to call this year cancelled due to the disease.
KPA principal communication officer Hajji Masemo said the prospects of the country’s cruise tourism look bright, noting that the agency is collaborating with the Cruise Africa, an association that incorporates the Indian Ocean, to market cruise tourism.
He said for Kenya to tap the full potential of the sector, the Port of Mombasa needs a “home vessel”.
“This means the ship will be domiciled here, start her journeys from Mombasa to other destinations,” he said.
The cruise sector, Mr Masemo added is one of the fastest growing maritime segments in the world.
“It is growing at an average of 20 percent (save for coronavirus times). We are keen to grow this industry as part of exploiting sustainable blue economy,” said Mr Masemo.
Currently, Kenya has more than 400 crew members on aboard vessels globally.
“We are optimistic that despite the pandemic, we can still get cruises to Kenya. But after the pandemic we will have many ships calling at our terminal,” said Mr Masemo.
He spoke after Kenya made its first ship crew change when six Kenyan and a Zimbabwean aboard a Holland America cruise ship arrived in Mombasa after spending six months in the ship due to Covid-19.
The seven disembarked from Ms Westerdam, the Dutch flagged ship at six nautical miles off the Mombasa Port, just a month after Kenya agreed to the new international measures to open up borders to facilitate seafarers’ repatriation.
The seven had to undergo medical checks before they were allowed to disembark from the ship.
Ms Westerdam, one of the Holland America’s largest cruise ship which was sailing from Port Klang, Malaysia had on board about 300 crew from different countries among them Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa which were also in the process of repatriation.
On July Kenya accepted seafarers’ crew change through Port of Mombasa joining other 13 port states in the world.
Kenya Maritime Authority official Luke Samba said the more than 400 Kenyans were aboard different ships when countries locked their borders. Since July, plans to return them home after completing their contracts are underway.
Some 400,000 seafarers are affected on land or on ships with about 10,000 currently trapped onboard ships across the globe due to the continuing imposition of travel restrictions. This is according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It is said some 200,000 seafarers are urgently waiting to leave their ships since their contracts have expired.