The Falkland Islands will see the arrival of its first expedition vessel as part of a scaled down summer tourist season on Thursday November 25 2021. The vessel, Silver Explorer, will call to Bleaker Island and Bull Point for the day and passengers will be permitted to disembark and visit the areas. The following day it will call into West Point and Saunders Island. Vessels are expected to arrive in Stanley from the first week in December and passengers will be permitted to leave the ship to visit Stanley and neighbouring areas.

As part of continued efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, the Falkland Islands Government produced a series of shipping guidance documents for fishing and expedition vessels wishing to enter Falkland Islands waters. These are designed to support vessel operators and ensure that they have essential policies and procedures in place to protect against Covid-19, as well as to provide clarity on the local laws and restrictions that are currently have in place.

Expedition cruise vessels that meet the requirements will be able to visit the Falkland Islands, subject to a limit of 530 passengers disembarking in any one location (for these purposes, Stanley and Stanley Common is considered as a single location). The stringent requirements include: all passengers and crew to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours before joining the ship, and the ship must have spent 10 days at sea (or have visited only clean locations such as Antarctica and South Georgia) before visiting the Falkland Islands. This period at sea may only be reduced to 5 or 8 days if all persons on board meet the same vaccination and testing requirements that are available for the ‘test to release’ option for air arrivals in the Falkland Islands.

Visiting vessels must also provide evidence of suitable, sufficient healthcare and medical facilities onboard including: the capacity to undertake Covid-19 testing, medical facilities, capacity for isolation if needed, enhanced hygiene and ventilation measures, and medevac capability. The guidance also states that failure to meet these requirements will result in the government denying entry into the Falklands Islands for both passengers and vessels. For example, if a passenger or crew member contracts Covid-19, or tests positive for the virus while not in Falkland Islands waters, then operators are aware that the government reserves the right to direct the vessel to transit elsewhere.

Portfolio holder for Economic Development, MLA Gavin Short, said: “Following more than a year and a half of only receiving reduced numbers of visitors to the Islands, it is understandable that our community may feel concerned or uncomfortable at the thought of having tourists arrive by sea. However, this is not a decision that has been taken lightly and the measures that we have in place to protect the public from Covid-19 are rigorous and unambiguous. I would like to reassure people that in order for expedition vessels to even enter Falkland Islands waters, they must first have provided detailed information concerning the health of their passengers and crew, onboard facilities, and emergency planning measures. The government also reserves the right to withdraw its exemption permitting maritime visitors to enter the Falkland Islands at any time, including in circumstances where such a step would be required to protect the health of the Falkland Islanders, or to protect the Falkland Islands healthcare resources.”

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