The recent decision by Silverseas Cruises to move its operations to neighboring Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams in Chile, has shaken Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia officials who are complaining that the Argentine government, despite promises, has yet to deliver the sanitary protocol for vessels and crew, calling in Ushuaia, plus announcing when borders will be opened.
Ushuaia officials recall that the Argentine government authorized Antarctic and bi-oceanic cruises from 20 October and pledged the decision was to be followed by a quick announcement of sanitary measures for visitors, crew members and vessels, but less than a week before the official beginning of the 2021/22 cruise season, the instructions have not arrived.
Furthermore Silverseas, belonging to the Royal Caribbean group moved its three vessels, Silver Cloud, Silver Wind and Silver Explorer to Punta Arenas supported by a release full of praise for the Chileans.
Chile is a fantastic access gate with a stable infrastructure and excellent services, and went on to congratulate the Chilean government for its unwavering dedication to reestablish sailing to the white continent in a secure, safe and enriching way.
Roberto Murcia head of Tierra del Fuego province Ports Department admitted that the cruise company had anticipated them of their decision and was based on the fact that Chile, had no restrictions for the access of foreigners, and not because of costs or operational improvements compared to the port of Ushuaia.
Last 24 August an administrative decision from the head of the Argentine cabinet, decided the gradual and safe return of bi-oceanic and Antarctic cruises as from 20 October, in the framework of sanitary measures at the moment of its implementation and subject to the recommendations to that effect, established by the national sanitary authority.
But, point out Ushuaia officials, to this day there is no definition on how to implement the opening of borders for the access of foreigners on tourism trips, and the necessary sanitary specific demands to be complied for those who will be boarding cruises in Ushuaia, nor any news referred to access protocols for the vessels and crewmembers to Argentina.
This lack of definition is making things very difficult, because it is vital for companies to know as soon as possible how the issue of the entry of vessels, crew and the interchange of passengers, admitted Murcia in an interview with a local radio.
Murcia added that last week Tierra del Fuego governor addressed the federal government requesting a quick decision on the issue, and whether incoming passengers had to comply with the quarantine, and if, where, no matter what the provincial sanitary protocol said, but which the federal government has yet to address.
Likewise with the Covid 19 vaccines certificate, negative PCR on first arriving in Argentina and the negative antigen test to be able to disembark in Ushuaia.
However despite the uncertainty pending Murcia was optimistic about the coming activity of Antarctic cruises. As to the original announced 461 cruise calls some months ago, the official admitted we are not going to have a great cruise season, as in past normal years, because many cruise companies are not sure they will be able to comply with the strict sanitary requirements in the protocols, but anyhow we believe we are going to have over 300 calls, and the season will extend from mid November to end of January/February next year.
Murcia added that the delay on approving the sanitary measures and protocols will have complications for Ushuaia, losing competitiveness with Chilean ports and the economic impact that goes beyond port rates and services, given all the activity generated by thousands of visitors and crew members landing.
Another issue pointed out was that there should be a better coordination with all the countries benefitting from the cruise industry particularly the so called bi-oceanic routes. If ports in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Peru, and obviously Argentina, have different sanitary and protocol approaches, the outcome is that companies will simply give up this season's tours and leave.
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