KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The Ketchikan City Council in a special meeting Thursday is scheduled to consider approving a draft Memorandum of Agreement between Southeast Alaska port communities and the Carnival Corporation.

The Carnival Corporation owns Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line as well as several smaller cruise lines.

Other signatories besides Carnival Corp. and the City of Ketchikan listed in the document are: Icy Strait Point, the Port of Sitka, the Pacific & Arctic Railway & Navigation Co., the City of Hoonah, the City and Borough of Juneau, the Municipality of Skagway, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, and the City and Borough of Sitka.

The three ships listed as “approved” by the cruise company in the documents attached to the meeting agenda packet are the Carnival Miracle, the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Majestic Princess. If operating at 70% capacity, the document states, these ships would carry 1,876, 1,805 and 2,975 guests, respectively.

The MOA addresses conditions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruise ships were prevented from sailing in 2020 with the CDC’s No Sail Order. On Oct. 30, the CDC replaced that order with the Framework for Conditional Sailing, which provided the first steps for a phased resumption of cruise ship operations in the U.S.

In April, the CDC issued further instructions that outlined the protocols and agreements that cruise lines would have to take to be allowed to sail again.

A CDC guidance letter released on April 28 stated that a cruise ship operator must enter into agreements with port and local health authorities where a ship intends to dock. Those agreements must include a port component, a medical care component and a housing component.

According to a memo written by Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon, a small group of publicly and privately owned Southeast Alaska port operators and industry representatives have met several times over the past several weeks to begin developing COVID-19 protocols that would satisfy the CDC’s rules and allow cruise lines to again operate in the state.

Part of those preparations has been to include the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in the MOA process with the cruise lines as a way to ensure meeting the CDC health plan requirements.

In one segment of the draft MOA, it is stated that “the medical care and housing components are unnecessary for purposes of this MOA, because (Carnival Corp.) has committed to transport any COVID-19 positive passengers to Seattle for medical care” and that they have made health care, housing and transportation agreements with the Port of Seattle.

According to Amylon, if council members want to discuss terms and/or conditions of the draft MOA that could have an “immediate adverse impact” on the city’s finances or if they would like to receive legal advice within the attorney/client privilege, an executive session could be held at Thursday’s meeting to have those conversations.

Recently, the CDC released guidelines which stated that previously required test cruises could be scrapped in exchange for operating ships with at least 95% of the crew members and passengers having been vaccinated.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. There is time for public comment scheduled near the start of the meeting.

A maximum of 40 attendees will be allowed and chairs will be set six feet apart. Attendees will be asked to sign in at the door, and pens will be sanitized between users. Other surfaces also will be properly sanitized. Paper masks also will be available for use by attendees, and masks will be mandatory when six feet of distancing between people is not possible.

Individuals interested in providing written comments can do so via email, sent to clerk@city.ketchikan.ak.us by 4 p.m. Thursday. Written comments will not be read at the meeting but will be “put on the table” for the City Council members.

Individuals who would like to provide public comment telephonically during the meeting should contact the Ketchikan city clerk’s office by phone at 228-5658 by 4 p.m. Thursday. There is a three-minute limit on comments.

The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan’s Facebook page or YouTube channel as well as on the City of Ketchikan website at http://www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.