First cruise ship to sail from America

First cruise ship to sail from America
Adventure of the Seas, operated by Royal Caribbean International, arrives at dawn as the first cruise ship carrying tourists to Cozumel since the outbreak of COVID-19 disease. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 June 2021

First cruise ship to sail from America

First cruise ship to sail from America
  • The $1 billion vessel will be led by Capt. Kate McCue, who in 2015 became the first American woman to captain a cruise ship

MIAMI: The first cruise ship to board passengers at a US port in 15 months is set to sail Saturday from the industry’s South Florida hub in a symbolic stride toward normalcy that will be watched closely by health experts as vaccines curb the coronavirus’ spread in the country.

Industry officials hope the Celebrity Edge’s voyage serves as a bookend for people for whom the gravity of the pandemic first hit home in the alarming reports last year of deadly outbreaks on crowded ships, with guests quarantined for weeks, vessels begging to dock and sickened passengers carried away on stretchers at ports.

“We are excited to be part of that,” said Russ Schwartz, a Florida school principal who is honeymooning on the ship and is confident it will be smooth sailing. “Things have changed drastically. Back then we really didn’t know much about the virus. Cruises at that point weren’t prepared.”

Celebrity Cruises, one of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ brands, says at least 95 percent of those boarding the Celebrity Edge have been vaccinated against the coronavirus in line with health requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the ship will run at a reduced capacity.

It will be a luxurious voyage aboard a boat that was unveiled in December 2018 featuring a giant spa and multi-floor suites. The $1 billion vessel will be led by Capt. Kate McCue, who in 2015 became the first American woman to captain a cruise ship and has drawn a following of more than 1 million on TikTok and 250,000 on Instagram.

The stakes are high for cruise lines as they emerge from a CDC-imposed shutdown that lasted 15 months. During that period the three industry giants — Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean — have had to raise more than $40 billion in financing just to stay afloat without any revenue.

Collectively they lost $20 billion last year and another $4.5 billion in the first quarter of 2021, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

“The cruise lines are getting up off their knees after getting crippled by COVID-19,” said Michael Winkleman, a maritime attorney. “There’s just too much money at stake for the cruise lines not to get it right.”

To comply with both the CDC’s 95 percent vaccination requirement and a new Florida law banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, Celebrity Cruises is simply asking guests if they would like to share their status, spokeswoman Susan Lomax said.

Those who don’t voluntarily show proof of vaccination will be treated as unvaccinated and be subjected to additional protocols such as wearing face masks and being restricted to designated seating areas in common areas like dining rooms, casinos and theaters.

Last year, the CDC castigated the cruise industry for keeping bars, gyms and self-service buffets open and continuing to allow crew members to gather even as the pandemic raged.

Beginning in March 2020, data showed 3,689 confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships in US waters, and at least 41 deaths. The CDC says it spent 38,000 person-hours handling just the cruise response to COVID-19, including contact tracing for 11,000 passengers.

Medical evacuation and logistical efforts for passengers disembarking ships such as the Zaandam in Fort Lauderdale and the Grand Princess in Oakland, California, also diverted resources from local agencies that were trying to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Dozens of passengers have since filed lawsuits saying companies failed to protect them and warn them about the virus, especially after an outbreak on Carnival’s Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan with more than 700 confirmed cases and nine deaths.


US supply chain woes to stretch into 2022, warns transport chief

In this aerial file photo taken on October 14, 2021, trucks transport cargo containers at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
In this aerial file photo taken on October 14, 2021, trucks transport cargo containers at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
Updated 18 October 2021

US supply chain woes to stretch into 2022, warns transport chief

In this aerial file photo taken on October 14, 2021, trucks transport cargo containers at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
  • Pete Buttigieg says the supply side crunch was being exacerbated by extraordinary pent-up demand

WASHINGTON: The US transportation secretary on Sunday warned that America’s supply chain woes including clogged ports will drag into next year, potentially cramping the upcoming holiday shopping season in the world’s largest economy.
Pete Buttigieg did the rounds on US political talk shows to stress that President Joe Biden’s administration was doing everything it could to alleviate congestion at the country’s overloaded ports, railways and roads, and that the government will “re-evaluate all of our options” to relieve the bottlenecks.
But “a lot of the challenges that we have been experiencing this year will continue into next year,” the transport chief and former presidential candidate told CNN’s “State of the Union” show.
Buttigieg added that the supply side crunch was being exacerbated by extraordinary pent-up demand in the United States.
“Demand is off the charts, retail sales are through the roof,” he said, and the country’s transportation and shipping infrastructure has been unable to keep up.
With the Christmas holiday season gearing up as America’s coronavirus-battered economy rebounds, US retailers are taking unprecedented steps to try to navigate around myriad supply chain obstacles.
Biden recently announced a commitment by the Port of Los Angeles to begin 24-hour operations in an effort to ease congestion which has seen multiple cargo ships anchored off the coast awaiting opportunities to unload.
Analysts have pointed to knock-on effects through the US economy.
Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian, speaking to “Fox News Sunday” about the supply chain crunch, called it “the everything shortage.”
“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. “So we’re going to have more shortages of goods, we’re going to have higher prices, inflation will remain in the four-to-five percent level. And it’s just going to take time to sort these things out.”
Congress meanwhile is grappling with passing two huge portions of Biden’s domestic agenda: a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to upgrade roads, bridges and ports, and his even bigger Build Back Better social spending program.
“We’ve got to get this done,” Buttigieg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The infrastructure bill has bipartisan support. But the massive package that expands the social safety net and addresses the climate crisis faces opposition from within the president’s own Democratic camp as well as from Republicans, pushing Biden to consider paring it back.


Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings

Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings
Updated 17 October 2021

Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings

Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia made impressive progress in maritime connectivity at the regional level, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development report for the third quarter of 2021.

The Kingdom achieved 70.68 points in the Maritime Connectivity Index, which is the highest in the region, said the report.

The Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, has forged partnerships with operators and major international shipping lines to develop the Kingdom’s seaports and contribute to the national goal of transforming Saudi Arabia into a global logistics hub.

Omar bin Talal Hariri, president of Mawani, said the authority is proud of the achievement and will intensify its efforts to meet the aspirations of the Kingdom’s leadership.

The index includes several sub-indicators, most notably, the number of scheduled visits by ships to the country within a week, capacity of the ships in standard units, in addition to the number of regular service paths provided by shipping lines to and from the country.


UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe


UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe

Updated 17 October 2021

UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe


UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe


RIYADH: Al Dhara Holding, an Abu Dhabi-based agricultural company, will establish five new animal feed plants in Eastern Europe.

The new plants will be established in Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. The new facilities are part of the company’s efforts to expand its horizons and diversify its sources of production.

The company has opened its first plant for compressing and drying animal feed in Serbia with a production capacity of 120,000 tons and storage capacity of 20,000 tons.

 


Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister

Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister
Updated 17 October 2021

Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister

Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister

CAIRO: Egypt's oil minister said on Sunday that foreign investments in the sector fell 26.02% to $5.4 billion in the financial year 2020-21, versus $7.3 billion a year earlier.

“The coronavirus crisis led to a slowdown in investments from international oil companies worldwide,” Tarek El Molla said in a speech to the Egyptian Petroleum Association. 


Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans

Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans
Updated 17 October 2021

Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans

Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans

RIYADH: More than 86,000 Saudi families benefited from the Housing Ministry’s Sakani program subsidized real estate loans since the beginning of the year till September, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

The program offers two types of subsidized loans, one for ready-made housing units and the other meant for under-construction buildings.

Of the total, 69,497 families benefited from the loan offered for ready-made housing units.

The Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund formed Sakani in 2017 to facilitate homeownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70 percent homeownership by 2030.

The program also launched new e-services to serve people effectively.