Due to measures to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus, passenger shipping has been on hold since March 16. That is the worst possible moment for the sector because the sailing season has just started, in which all the money has to be earned. According to sector organizations Central Bureau for Rhine and Inland Shipping (CBRB) and Koninklijke BLN-Schuttevaer, the first bankruptcies can already be reported and more will follow. They have requested an emergency fund for passenger shipping.
Ramon van der Storm is director of Blue Boat Company. This shipping company has seventeen boats and, for example, provides canal tours in Amsterdam and has 150 employees. The company normally transports up to 750,000 people every year. “It’s going to be a bloodbath. We are not allowed to sail and there are simply no tourists, no events. You can’t do anything as long as tourism stops. This is really very serious. You really go to zero. ”
Completely shut down
“It is just very heavy,” says director Gertjan Nell of Rederij Van Hulst with eight river ships for cruises, parties and business events, which are good for approximately 100,000 passengers per year. The shipping company employs sixty people, twenty of whom are full-time. “We have been completely shut down. Our order book was packed with bookings from all over the world. But now everything is gone while the costs continue. It is imperative that there is a safety net for companies that are in trouble due to the crisis. ”
The entrepreneurs hope to be able to sail again on 1 June, with restrictive measures such as the 1.5-meter rule. They have taken measures against the virus outbreak, for example by installing plexiglass screens and walkways. “I’ll be thrilled when we can get back on the boat, if only to get some cash and minimize your losses. We understand government measures, because safety comes first. But it is far-reaching, ”says Van der Storm.
Nell does point out that far fewer people can get on board than before. “Then we have to raise our prices enormously to remain profitable. This is not possible in the long term. We must eventually return to normal conditions. ”
The entrepreneurs fear that smaller passenger companies in particular may be put off by the crisis or that companies will decide to stop because the uncertainty has become too great. “If companies drop out, the chances of something coming back are minimal. There are simply too many risks, ”thinks Van der Storm.
Nell says that he is still looking forward to it despite the malaise. “I am still young, but I can well imagine that, for example, older entrepreneurs no longer feel like it and do not want to enter into large financial obligations again to continue.”
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