Maritime minister Robert Courts has confirmed the restart of UK cruise operations is being considered under the remit of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce.

However, he told Clia’s Virtual Cruise Forum that the decision to lift advice against ocean cruising would be taken “when the time was right to prioritise the safety of the UK public at this critical time”.

Courts told the forum that the government was “acutely aware” of the impact of the pandemic on the cruise sector and wider travel industry, and said a “tremendous amount had been achieved” in the past seven months since the voluntary suspension of cruising.

He said the focus of the taskforce was on the implementation of a sustainable testing regime for international arrivals and the wider restart of travel, and added: “I can confirm that the cruise restart will be considered as part of the taskforce and my officials and I will continue to support the case for a safe resumption as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Responding to a question from a travel agent about why cruises had been permitted in other parts of Europe but not in the UK, Courts said each country had “different circumstances”, but insisted he and his team were working “every day and every night” to feed into the taskforce, which was working “very much at pace” ahead of its report to the prime minister in early November.

Earlier, Tony Roberts, Clia UK & Ireland chair and vice-president of Princess Cruises UK & Europe, urged forum delegates to lobby their MP to lift the current  advice against ocean cruising.

Roberts said Clia would circulate a templated letter for agents to send to their local MPs, insisting the removal of the current blanket advice was a crucial step in the safe resumption of the sector, which would require months of planning.

Referring to the creation of a framework for the resumption of cruising by Clia and the Chamber of Shipping, he said: “Our view is that the progress made with the framework document should be reflected in an update to the FCDO advice.

“We feel the cruise-specific advice is no longer appropriate and as an industry we have a framework from which we can start to plan to manage the risks around Covid-19.”

Roberts said Clia had been encouraged by the successful return to cruising seen in other European countries and added: “We need your support. Just as we are making the case to government and MPs, we welcome you getting involved too.

“We need to speak together to make our voice heard.”