Transport Minister Lawrence Scott told MPs today that a “small luxury line” and others have expressed an interest in the “homeporting” of their ships in Bermuda.

Speaking in the House of Assembly this morning, the Minister said three ships could homeport here in an initiative that could inject more than $40M in Bermuda’s economy and create at least 60 jobs.

But he was quick to note that no contracts had been signed yet as talks continue.

Ultimately, he said homeporting means that Bermuda would be the home base for the cruise line involved for a cruise to nowhere or their private island’s to the south of the island, for three to four months.

Passengers and crew would have to be fully immunised and follow local COVID-19 protocols before they fly to Bermuda to start their cruise, with the option to book a hotel as well to stay on island longer.

“The Ministry of Transport, being ever so excited about this opportunity and the potential economic stimulus from the cruise ship industry to our economy, has diligently worked with the Ministry of Health to create a framework and response plan to restart the cruising industry safely – ideally starting in June this summer,” said Mr Scott.

“We have estimated a potential economic impact of over $40m into Bermuda’s economy from this initiative to homeport three ships in Bermuda, not necessarily at the same time.

“The Ministry of Transport believes a solution for the safe resumption of cruising is a concept called ‘homeporting,” he added.

“This concept is new to Bermuda and was introduced to us by a small luxury cruise line who were so impressed with Bermuda’s handling of Covid-19 – they expressed interest in homeporting a ship in Bermuda. Thus, the concept of homeporting in Bermuda was born out of the travel restrictions in other jurisdictions.

“We have other cruise lines interested in the homeporting concept as well. However, discussions are ongoing, and no contracts have been signed yet.”

Highlights of the Minister’s full statement:

There is no tourism without transport. The cruise ship industry is a key revenue generator for Bermuda. On average, the economic impact from the industry is $170M, with approximately 185 ship calls annually. In 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the island saw only four calls out of the scheduled 196 projected calls. In 2021, 189 calls were originally projected, and the number of calls continues to dwindle. The Cruise Ship schedule requires a complete overhaul because of daily cancellations. To date, there have not been any calls in 2021.

Looking ahead, Bermuda is in a unique position of having a strong and proven COVID-19 response plan to mitigate the importation of the virus through legislation, rigorous PCR Nasal Pharyngeal testing, and contact tracing. We also regularly updated stakeholder guidance to keep our community safe and our commercial and private marine and air borders open. With Bermuda’s early lockdown and stringent COVID-19 health protocols, this has been a big win for Bermuda, including Bermuda earning the World Travel & Tourism Council “Safe Travels” stamp, a designation awarded to destinations with the highest in health-safety protocols. Also, important, Bermuda has been keeping its Reproductive number under 1, and, more recently, the US Centers for Disease Control reduced Bermuda’s travel advisory ranking down to Level 2.

I feel duty bond to share that the Ministry of Transport believes a solution for the safe resumption of cruising is a concept called ‘homeporting’.

We have estimated a potential economic impact of over forty million dollars into Bermuda’s economy from this initiative to homeport three ships in Bermuda, not necessarily at the same time.

Of importance, there is opportunity for up to 60 additional local part-time jobs on the ground that may be created to provide the extra services required to support the Homeporting concept in Bermuda.

Since taking up the post of Minister of Transport, I have learned that cruisers all over the world love to cruise, including many in Bermuda!

There is pent-up demand for leisure travel and cruise passengers in particular are keen to resume their travels but safely. Bermuda’s record of pandemic management has created significant interest in homeporting from our shores and as such discussions are advancing and before this House rises for the Easter Recess I felt it necessary to advise Honourable Members and the public of the ongoing efforts of the Ministry of Transport to play its part in the economic recovery of our tourism sector and Bermuda as a whole.