River cruise step by step welcomed back in the port of Amsterdam

News item

Since March, no sailing cruise vessel could be found in the port of Amsterdam. Together with the Security Region, Port of Amsterdam decided to suspend cruise from the port for safety reasons.

Now that the corona measures will be eased by the national government from June 1st onwards, it is possible to organise activities for up to 30 people. We are starting to see more excursion boats in the canals and, this month, a river cruise vessel in the port. Monic van der Heyden, Commercial Manager river cruise at Port of Amsterdam, is cautiously optimistic. We are going to resume step by step. Monic expects the first river cruise vessel on June 20th.

Except for the 13 empty river cruise vessels at Passenger Terminal Amsterdam and on the ‘kop van Java’, it was very quiet for the last couple of months with regards to cruise in the port of Amsterdam. Traditionally, March marked the start of the season with the opening of the Keukenhof. When corona took hold in the Netherlands and the first infected cases became known, it was quickly decided to suspend cruise from the port. Safety first was the motto.

Now, after three months, the port of Amsterdam is slowly reopening for river cruise, though under stringent conditions. The Emergency Ordinance offers room to start sailing from June 1st onwards, with a maximum of 30 persons on board and following the national guidelines, like 1.5 meters of distance and additional hygiene measures.

How do you resume in a safe and responsible manner?

‘Shipping lines need to adhere to national guidelines to conduct business in a safe and responsible manner. In order to facilitate this, we have taken a number of measures, like starting to welcome so-called cycle/sail vacation vessels. This category of smaller river cruise vessels sails with smaller parties and is optimally designed to cater to this segment. Moreover, these vessels do not need busses, as the passengers embark the vessel by bicycle and the vessel will depart almost immediately straight after. This month, we expect a maximum of five of these vessels. To safely receive them, we have banned double berthing until further notice. Not that this is necessary for this volume, but because we want to be very clear in our policy. This prevents that people have to walk over another vessel to reach the quay. We are responsible for the nautical part of the visit, including berthing and behaviour on the jetties. We have marked walking routes on the jetties and quays, have placed road signs and deployed stewards who will stimulate the guests to follow the guidelines. We will evaluate each visit on what went well and what can be improved. Do we have to take extra measures, and if so, which ones?

Furthermore, the shipping lines have, together with the EBU (European Barge Union), composed a protocol. This specifies the European guidelines for corona that each shipping line needs to follow. Additionally, we work closely together with the Municipal Health Services (GGD), which will be mobilised in case of an outbreak. The procedures concerning contagious diseases have been tested, tried, and validated. The Special Investigating Officers and the police are responsible for enforcing compliance.’

What is the total number of vessels till the end of the year?

‘We do not know at this time. A few shipping lines have cancelled all their bookings till the end of 2020 at the start of the corona pandemic. A number of shipping lines will continue to monitor the situation, while others will resume their operations after July 1st, when parties of up to 100 persons are allowed to sail. Even more important in this matter, what do the people want? Will there be an appetite for a river cruise trip? In any case, the guests will originate from our neighbouring countries. I do not expect intercontinental guests this year. Therefore, the total number of river cruise vessels will be modest, a fraction of the roughly 2,000 vessels we have received in Amsterdam each of the preceding years.’  

Where will the river cruise vessels be berthed?

‘The vessels will be berthed at the usual locations in the port. Because of the measures and the modest number of visiting vessels, we will only use half of the jetties for berthing. For example, at the Westerdoksdijk a maximum of one vessel will be berthed, on shore power of course.’

And when will the sea cruise be resumed?

‘Even though the next expansion to 100 persons will be effective starting July 1st, the sea cruise will not be able to resume. I do not see that happening for the time being. The next easing offers bigger river cruise vessels the possibility to resume operations. At this moment, we do not know how big the appetite for this is.’

Do you want to know more about the river cruise starting back up? Go to our Q&A.