(2:21 p,m. GMT) -- The industry body which represents cruising is calling on the UK government to lift its blanket ban on cruising.
In a sharp shift from its previous behind-the scenes-negotiating, the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) has asked the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to remove its ban and "bring us into line with the rest of the transport industry".
It also follows a piece in the Daily Mail today which claims that cruising could restart around the coast of the UK from January.
According to the Daily Mail, ministers are working on a phased return to cruising with a wider lifting of the total ban to follow -- as long as operators agree to take responsibility for repatriating passengers in the event of an outbreak on board. Much of this also depends on fast COVID testing at departure.
In response, Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, said: "CLIA and its cruise line members are working collaboratively with Government and health authorities as we plan the safe resumption of cruise operations at the appropriate time based on new safety protocols.
"We are supportive of the government’s wider travel advice, but are now calling for the removal of FCDO's specific ban on cruising to bring us into line with the rest of the transport industry.
"That will allow customers to book with confidence again, as well as helping to protect the 88,000 jobs and £10 billion in annual revenue cruising contributes to the UK economy."
Behind-the-scenes negotiations by CLIA removed the ban on all cruising in July, allowing river cruises to resume operations.
However, the ban on all ocean cruising -- regardless of vessel size -- remains in place, despite ongoing lobbying and at least 30 ships are idling, lying moored off the UK coast.
Speaking at a World Travel Market seminar today, VP & MD EMEA of Celebrity Cruises, Jo Rzymowska, said:
"We understand this is a pandemic. We understand the health and safety of consumers is paramount, however don't treat cruise any differently to the whole of the rest of the industry.
"Treat us equally, that's what we're asking for as an industry and that's what we feel strongly from an FCDO point of view that hopefully we will see movement on quite soon."