Cruise Lines Not Ready for Europe’s Upcoming Border Controls

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Cruise lines have work to do to prepare for the European Union’s new border control measures coming this year and next.

Millions of tourists may soon be stuck in long lines trying to get into Europe. The reason: Cruise lines don’t have the infrastructure and resources to implement the new European Union’s cross-border rules, said executives at a panel on Europe’s upcoming border control rules at ITB Berlin, a travel trade show.

The European Union is implementing two border measures for international travelers who stay less than 90 days.

It’s expected around this October to introduce the Entry-Exit System for non-EU travelers, where border authorities will manage and track traveler flows with a biometric verification system.

Then, in mid-2025, countries will start enforcing the European Authorization Travel and Information System (ETIAS). Under this system, travelers from the U.S., Canada, and 58 other visa-exempt countries have to complete an online authorization process to enter the EU and Schengen Area countries.

Cruises, airlines, and other transportation providers will be responsible for verifying a traveler’s authorization form before boarding. If they fail to do so, they’ll face a fine. Travelers without a form will be denied entry.

Many ports and cruise terminals don’t have the resources to process large numbers of passengers under the new system. 

“At ports and cruise terminals in many places, it’s basically sometimes just a shed with one booth and, if you’re lucky, one border guard,” said Marie-Caroline Laurent, director general of Europe for the Cruise Line International Association.

Cruise companies aren’t as advanced with data communication with government agencies as airlines are. Airlines have had over a decade to standardize and develop tech infrastructure to send data to government agencies during check-in. In contrast, many cruise operators still rely on paper documentation.

“We have been using paper manifests for passengers, for crew, and this is still the case in many environments,” Laurent said.

Cruise operators are still trying to catch up but have a long way to go.

“We’ve just implemented a similar system two weeks ago in the UK,” she said. “Just for the fun of it, we sent all data about the passenger to the UK authority. The clearance came two days after the ship had left.”

Airlines Need Timeline Details

Airlines are also still waiting for clarity about the timeline for ETIAS. Airlines still need to prepare staff and their operations for the new rules, too.

“We have to train our people in our stations everywhere in the world, across the networks of an airline, on new systems that are not yet there, make them aware that there are responsibilities here and a lot of things are really not clear at this stage,” said Mathias Jakobi, area manager, of Central Europe for the International Air Transport Association.

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