Cruise around the UK barred from docking at Scottish port

An apparently routine resumption of the cruise industry in the UK involving a round-Britain tour for the MSC Virtuosa (IMO 9803625) hit an unforeseen barrier yesterday when the Scottish government unexpectedly banned the vessel from docking in Greenock, effectively banning residents of its own nation from setting foot ashore.

The MSC Virtuosa had been due to call at the port for nearly 12 hours on June 9th as part of a seven-day cruise. It would have been the first cruise ship to call at a Scottish port this year. The trip started in Liverpool on June 8th and was also due to visit Belfast, Southampton and Portland. Passengers booked to join the cruise in Greenock may now have to travel by road to Liverpool instead.

MSC Cruises stated that “due to the latest Scottish Government Covid restrictions and regulations, we are sorry to inform you that the port call of Greenock has been cancelled. No guests are allowed to embark or disembark. This decision has been made by the Scottish Government and is out of our control”.

MSC Cruises said that in light of recent information received it was awaiting further clarification from the relevant authorities in Scotland about the situation for cruising.

“We hope that our calls to Scotland with our special cruises can commence soon considering how much we were looking forward to welcoming our Scottish guests onboard MSC Virtuosa and how we are aware of the important and widespread contribution the cruise industry makes to Scotland”, the company said.

Further MSC Virtuosa cruises booked to call at Greenock over the following two Wednesdays have also been cancelled.

One third of the hundreds of passengers aboard this week’s cruise had been expected to go ashore for excursions from Greenock. Three quarters of passengers had received both Covid vaccine jabs and had been triple tested. The crew had also been vaccinated and tested.

Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, noted that cruises from Greenock had been on sale for months, but that the Scottish Government had provided less than 36 hours’ notice that the sailings could not go ahead. “It is unsustainable for the Scottish Government to continue to make announcements without constructive consultation with key industry partners when these decisions have such a profound impact on business”, she said.

The Scottish government claimed that it had explained its concerns about transmission risks posed by cruise vessels in an “update” on May 24th. However, that statement merely said that it would clarify its position in June.  That clarification has now come at the last possible moment.

2021-built, Malta-flagged, 181,541 gt MSC Virtuosa is owned by Vista 4 Compania Naviera SA care of manager MSC Crociere SpA of Naples, Italy. ISM manager is MSC Cruise Management UK of Uxbridge, UK. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (European syndicate) on behalf of MSC Cruises Management UK Ltd.