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Treatment of cruise ship industry “unjust” as CDC ignores NCLH protocol suggestions: Nomura

Japanese brokerage Nomura has labelled the “unilateral treatment” of the cruise ship industry by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as unjust after Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH) cancelled the majority of its cruises through September and into October.

The world’s third-biggest cruise ship operator announced early Wednesday that almost all cruises in August and September were suspended, and many in October, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. NCLH, which once counted Genting Hong Kong as its majority shareholder, operates 28 cruise ships globally across three brands.

Suspension of more voyages follows a No Sail Order issued by the CDC on 14 March which remains in place to this day, with no indication the order will be lifted any time soon.

However, Nomura analysts stated in a note that the treatment of NLCH and other cruise ship operators appears to be “unjust” given the recent reopening of other tourism and leisure industries such as casinos and resorts in recent weeks.

“The issue is not that the industry has been passive in developing health protocols. Quite the contrary. In our view, the hurdle lies with the CDC’s unwillingness to discuss, debate and mutually implement the highest standards of passenger and crew healthcare,” Nomura stated.

“The major cruise operators have established a panel of leading virologists and health policy experts, which has, for many weeks, submitted suggestions for new protocols, with limited interest by the CDC in a two-sided discussion about resuming sailing.

“Their messaging seems to be don’t even think about resuming operations, even if most businesses are reopening, resorts and casinos are welcoming guests, and airlines are taking off with many flights near capacity with not a peep of objection from the CDC.

“It would seem that the cruise industry, its passengers and employees have been viewed by the CDC in the same vein as meat packing plants, nursing homes and prisons. The industry has little recourse or avenues of appeal. It (the CDC) has the power to keep ships at anchor and impound or quarantine ships should they decide to sail.

“At this pace, it may take another month to disembark all crew members and another 3 to 6 months for the CDC to respond to the expert panel’s recommendations. By then, the 2020 season is over.

“In our view, there is something unjust about such unilateral treatment. We believe the sooner the CDC reconsiders the cruise industry as a willing partner, the faster employees get back to work and dedicated cruise customers can enjoy the same opportunity offered to resort, casino and airline customers.”

NLCH stocks fell 13% on Wednesday’s news, while market leader Carnival Corp’s stocks declined 11%.

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