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Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines Get Great News

The three major cruise companies have battled not just covid, but also the U.S. government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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The three major cruise companies have battled not just covid, but also the U.S. government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The major cruise lines that operate from ports in the United States operate under foreign flags. That's largely to avoid American labor laws because U.S. rules would require minimum wages, certain working conditions, and other things that would make operating economics a major challenge for Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report, Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report.

That's not a criticism of the three major cruise lines' operating model. They pay well for the markets they recruit most of their workers from and create economic opportunities for their crew members. Not being U.S. businesses, however, despite being headquartered in the United States made the cruise industry more vulnerable to government control during the worst of the pandemic.

At no point was air travel banned in the U.S. nor did trains, busses, or hotels stop operating by federal mandate. Cruise lines, however, were shut down from March 2020 through July 2021 despite the industry spending hundreds of millions of dollars to show it could operate safely (or at least more safely than many land-based businesses which were shut down).

Even as Americans returned to indoor dining, packed concert venues, and sold out sporting events, the cruise lines could not operate because they fell under the control of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That created a huge problem for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian which, for over a year, could not operate in any fashion.

That changed in July when the CDC offered very strict conditions for a return to sailing and the three big cruise lines resumed operations from U.S. ports. It has been a very slow ramp up but now, the CDC has not only moved from its mandatory conditional sailing order to a voluntary one (that Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian have all opted into), it has slowly rolled back its rules.

Image source: Carnival

The CDC Makes Another Major Cruise Rule Change

While masks have been optional in most the U.S. for quite a while, the cruise lines required them in a variety of indoor venues until March. The actual rules varied based on the current covid levels -- sometimes masks were not required at all in certain venues and at others they were mandatory except when eating or drinking while stationary. 

The rules have been a bit of a moving target but the CDC has once again made a change that favors the cruise industry. It may seem like a small change, but it's actually a big deal for Royal Caribbean and Carnival specifically which have a large family clientele.

CDC rules have required the cruise lines to make sure that 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. The problem is that the vaccinated number includes kids over 5. All adults who sail must be vaccinated, but that was not required of kids. That, however, meant that ships could only accommodate a limited number of unvaccinated kids.

Now, the CDC has lowered that threshold to 90% which should allow the cruise lines to operate normally as it would be very rare for more than 10% of passengers to be under age 12. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian do consider passengers 12 and over to be "adults" who must be vaccinated.

Cruising Moves Closer to Pre-Pandemic Normal

As the CDC has loosened its rules, taking a cruise has slowly moved closer to being the same experience it was before the pandemic. Now, most of the altered experience comes before your cruise (assuming you're not traveling with unvaccinated kids).

All passengers must still provide a negative covid test taken no more than two days before the day their cruise departs. All passengers 12 and over must also provide proof of vaccination.

Masks are no longer required onboard for passengers, though they remain recommended for unvaccinated kids. In addition, recent federal rule changes have made masks optional in the terminal while boarding -- an important change when it comes having the cruise experience feel like it did before the pandemic.

Now, the only real question is when will vaccine and testing requirements change. That's not something the CDC has issued any guidance on (and it's likely still quite a ways away). 

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China Suggests It Could Maintain ‘Zero COVID’ Policy For 5 Years

China Suggests It Could Maintain ‘Zero COVID’ Policy For 5 Years

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

China has suggested it will…

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China Suggests It Could Maintain 'Zero COVID' Policy For 5 Years

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

China has suggested it will maintain its controversial ‘zero COVID’ policy for at least 5 years, eschewing natural immunity and guaranteeing repeated rounds of new lockdowns.

“In the next five years, Beijing will unremittingly grasp the normalization of epidemic prevention and control,” said a story published by Beijing Daily.

The article quoted Cai Qi, the Communist Party of China’s secretary in Beijing and a former mayor of the city, who said that ‘zero COVID’ approach would remain in place for 5 years.

After the story prompted alarm, reference to “five years” was removed from the piece and the hashtag related to it was censored by social media giant Weibo.

“Monday’s announcement and the subsequent amendment sparked anger and confusion among Beijing residents online,” reports the Guardian.

“Most commenters appeared unsurprised at the prospect of the system continuing for another half-decade, but few were supportive of the idea.”

Although western experts severely doubt official numbers coming out of China, Beijing claimed success in limiting COVID deaths by enforcing the policy throughout 2021.

However, this meant that China never achieved anything like herd immunity, and at one stage the Omicron variant caused more more coronavirus cases in Shanghai in four weeks than in the previous two years of the entire pandemic.

Back in May, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggested that China would be better off if it abandoned the policy, but Beijing refused to budge.

As we previously highlighted, the only way of enforcing a ‘zero COVID’ policy is via brutal authoritarianism.

In Shanghai, children were separated from their parents in quarantine facilities and others were left without urgent treatment like kidney dialysis.

Panic buying of food also became a common occurrence as the anger threatened to spill over into widespread civil unrest.

Former UK government COVID-19 advisor Neil Ferguson previously admitted that he thought “we couldn’t get away with” imposing Communist Chinese-style lockdowns in Europe because they were too draconian, and yet it happened anyway.

“It’s a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought,” said Ferguson.

“And then Italy did it. And we realised we could,” he added.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Tue, 06/28/2022 - 18:05

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No sign of major crude oil price decline any time soon

Bullish pressure on crude oil markets doesn’t seem to be easing Crude oil prices fell last week, notching their second weekly decline in the face of…

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Bullish pressure on crude oil markets doesn’t seem to be easing

Crude oil prices fell last week, notching their second weekly decline in the face of concern that rising interest rates could push the global economy into recession.

Yet the future of crude oil still seems bullish to many. Spare capacity, or lack of it, is just one of the reasons.

The global surplus of crude production capacity in May was less than half the 2021 average, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Friday.

The EIA estimated that as of May, producers in nations not members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had about 280,000 barrels per day (bpd) of surplus capacity, down sharply from 1.4 million bpd in 2021. It said 60 per cent of the May 2021 figure was from Russia, which is increasingly under sanctions related to its invasion of Ukraine.

The OPEC+ alliance of oil producers is running out of capacity to pump crude, and that includes its most significant member, Saudi Arabia, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva told Bloomberg last week.

“Some people believe the prices to be a little bit on the high side and expect us to pump a little bit more, but at this moment there is really little additional capacity,” Sylva said in a briefing with reporters on Friday. “Even Saudi Arabia, Russia, of course, Russia, is out of the market now more or less.” Nigeria was also unable to fulfil its output obligations, added Sylva.

Recent COVID-19-related lockdowns in parts of China – the world’s largest crude importer – also played a significant role in the global oil dynamics. The lack of Chinese oil consumption due to the lockdowns helped keep the markets in a check – somewhat.

Oil prices haven’t peaked yet because Chinese demand has yet to return to normal, a United Arab Emirates official told a conference in Jordan early this month. “If we continue consuming, with the pace of consumption we have, we are nowhere near the peak because China is not back yet,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said. “China will come with more consumption.”

Al-Mazrouei warned that without more investment across the globe, OPEC and its allies can’t guarantee sufficient supplies of oil as demand fully recovers from the pandemic.

But the check on the Chinese crude consumption seems to be easing.

On Saturday, Beijing, a city of 21 million-plus people, announced that primary and secondary schools would resume in-person classes. And as life seemed to return to normal, the Universal Beijing Resort, which was closed for nearly two months, reopened on Saturday.

Chinese economic hub Shanghai, with a population of 28 million-plus people, also declared victory over COVID after reporting zero new local cases for the first time in two months.

The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented curbs to stop the spread of the omicron wave from March to May.

But the easing of sanctions should mean oil’s price trajectory will resume its upward march.

In the meantime, in the U.S., the Biden administration is eying tougher anti-smog requirements. According to Bloomberg, that could negatively impact drilling across parts of the Permian Basin, which straddles Texas and New Mexico and is the world’s biggest oil field.

While the world is looking for clues about what the loss of supply from Russia will mean, reports are pouring in that the ongoing political turmoil in Libya could plague its oil output throughout the year.

The return of blockades on oilfields and export terminals amid renewed political tension is depriving the market of some of Libya’s oil at a time of tight global supply, said Tsvetana Paraskova in a piece for Oilrpice.com.

And in the ongoing political push to strangle Russian energy output, the G7 was reportedly discussing a price cap on oil imports from Russia. Western countries are increasingly frustrated that their efforts to squeeze out Russian energy supplies from the markets have had the counterproductive effect of driving up the global crude price, which is leading to Russia earning more money for its war chest.

To tackle the issue, and increase pressure on Russia, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is proposing a price cap on Russian crude oil sales. The idea is to lift the sanction on insurance for Russian crude cargo for countries that accept buying Russian oil at an agreed maximum price. Her proposal is aimed at squeezing Russian crude out of the market as much as possible.

So the bullish pressure on crude oil markets doesn’t seem to be easing.

By Rashid Husain Syed

Toronto-based Rashid Husain Syed is a respected energy and political analyst. The Middle East is his area of focus. As well as writing for major local and global newspapers, Rashid is also a regular speaker at major international conferences. He has provided his perspective on global energy issues to the Department of Energy in Washington and the International Energy Agency in Paris.

Courtesy of Troy Media

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WTI Extends Gains After Unexpected Crude Draw

WTI Extends Gains After Unexpected Crude Draw

Oil prices are higher today following relatively positive news from China (easing some of its…

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WTI Extends Gains After Unexpected Crude Draw

Oil prices are higher today following relatively positive news from China (easing some of its COVID quarantine restrictions), Macron-inspired doubts over the ability of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to significantly boost output, and unrest in Ecuador and Libya helped lift prices.

“We’re in the crunch period, it’s hard to see any meaningful price relief for crude,” said John Kilduff.

There’s a lot of strength with China relaxing its Covid restrictions and starting its independent refiners, “we’re going to have another chunk of demand for crude oil,” as China relaxes its Covid-19 restrictions.

With no EIA data released last week due to a "systems issue" (they have issued a statement confirming that the data - and the newest data - will both be released tomorrow), the only guidance we have for now on the past week's inventory changes is from API...

API (last week)

  • Crude +5.607mm

  • Cushing -390k

  • Gasoline +1.216mm - first build since March

  • Distillates -1.656mm

API (this week)

  • Crude -3.799mm

  • Cushing -650k

  • Gasoline +2.852mm

  • Distillates +2.613mm

Crude stocks unexpectedly fell last week, almost erasing the major build from the week before (according to API). Gasoline stocks rose for the second straight week

Source: Bloomberg

WTI was hovering around $111.75 and pushed up to $112 after the unexpected crude draw...

Finally, we note that the tight supply situation in oil (especially European) is revealing itself in the WTI-Brent spread, grew to $6.19, the widest in almost three months.

“European demand will remain robust, especially as natural gas supplies run out, while the North American demand for crude is weakening,” said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda.

This is not good news for President Biden as prices are rising...

And his ratings are hitting record lows.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/28/2022 - 16:37

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