Immediate prospects for cruising are “more challenging” than expected, the boss of the world largest cruise port operator has warned.

Global Ports Holding revealed a 118% slump third quarter slump in profits from cruises to a year-on-year loss of $2.9 million as passenger numbers fell 99% from 1.6 million.

Overall pre-tax losses for the first nine months of the year increased to $58.3 million from $12.3 million in the same time last year.

The operator of ports such as Barcelona, Lisbon and Valletta described the near term outlook for cruise over the remainder of 2020 and 2021 as “highly uncertain” and “more challenging” than the outlook at the time of its half year results in August.

The company is looking to sell the operator of Port Akdeniz in Antalya, Turkey, for $140 million.

“While a number of cruise lines have commenced sailing in the Mediterranean and Asia, volumes remain very low,” the port operator said.

“In North America and the Caribbean, there remains uncertainty as to when cruising will recommence in a meaningful way.

“The recent issuing of a framework for conditional sailing order for cruise ships by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a more formal structure for the return to cruising.

“However, we do not expect there will be a meaningful return to cruising in the near term.

“The first quarter is normally an important trading period for our Caribbean ports therefore no meaningful cruise activity in this period will have a negative impact on our overall trading in 2021.”

Maintaining sufficient liquidity is “pivotal” to the group’s ability to trade through this extended cruise shutdown, “particularly in the context of a Covid-19 second wave and as a return to severe travel restrictions sweeps across Europe”.

Chief executive Emre Sayin said: “As 2020, a year the global cruise industry and many of us will want to forget, comes to an end, the global cruise industry remains in near shutdown and the outlook for 2021 remains uncertain for the sector.

“While cruise activity has re-started in the Mediterranean and Asia, levels of activity remain very low.

“As we head into winter in the northern hemisphere, the potential end of the significant travel restrictions in Europe cannot be assessed with certainty due to the ongoing and even increasing impacts of Covid-19.

“In North America and the Caribbean, the cruise lines and cruise ports have put in place extensive Covid-19 protocols and the industry is ready to set sail once again.

“However, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  has effectively replaced its no sail order with a ‘framework for conditional sailing order for cruise ships’, we do not expect there will be a meaningful return to cruising in the near-term.

“The near-term outlook for the industry looks more challenging than we had expected at the time of half year results in August 2020.

“The first quarter is normally an important trading period for our Caribbean ports and no meaningful cruise activity in this period will have a negative impact to full-year 2021 trading.

“We continue to manage the group carefully by focusing on reducing costs and preserving cash during this difficult period.”

He added: “We continue to work with all stakeholders towards the successful financial close for the sale of Port Akdeniz.

“The successful conclusion of this process will effectively complete our strategic ambition of creating a pure play cruise port operator.

“While we continue to believe in the long term strength of the global cruise industry, all stakeholders should remain alert to the fact that the disposal of Port Akdeniz will occur during a period of continued uncertainty around a meaningful return to cruising.”