CORONAVIRUS/Keelung Port sees 1st int’l cruises after lifting COVID-19 ban

Keelung Port in northern Taiwan welcomed its first international cruise liners on Tuesday since the nation lifted a ban last October due to the easing of COVID-19, with the harbor operator forecasting a promising year for revenue.

The vessels were the Seven Seas Explorer from Regent Seven Seas Cruises and the MS Westerdam from Holland America Line, carrying 600 and 1,700 passengers, respectively, according to the Keelung branch of Taiwan International Ports Corp.

The Seven Seas Explorer departed from Bangkok and will sail to Japan's Kagoshima after touring Kaohsiung and Keelung, while the MS Westerdam, which departed from Singapore, also docked at the two Taiwanese cities before heading to Okinawa, Japan, according to the branch.

During a welcome ceremony held at the port, the branch expressed optimism over the future of Keelung's cruise sector as the port is scheduled to handle about 280,000 passengers from 72 international cruises this year.

Those cruises will include 31 that will use Keelung as a home port to provide regular trips, and 41 inbound cruises that often travel to multiple destinations, the company said.

For 12 out of the 72 cruises, it will also be their first time they visit Taiwan, the company said, adding that the port could host two cruises simultaneously -- as on Tuesday -- as many as five times in 2023.

In 2023, cruises in and out Keelung Port are expected to generate revenue of NT$1 billion (US$32.6 million) in the Greater Taipei and Keelung area, the company said.

Taiwan is looking forward to a swift resumption of international cruise services, which will help the industry resume the growth it was targeting before the pandemic, the Taiwanese government has said.

Taiwan imposed a ban on international cruises on Feb. 6, 2020, after a Taiwanese woman traveling on the Diamond Princess cruise liner was confirmed to be one of 10 passengers infected with COVID-19 -- the second wave of infections on the ship when it arrived in Japan on a round-trip cruise that included a 10-hour stop in Taiwan's Keelung Port on Jan. 31.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel