Fiji’s Blue Lane Initiative

In a time when most other Pacific island nations were closing their borders to cruisers, Fiji figured out a way to welcome them.

Unlike many Pacific nations, Fiji set guidelines that made it possible for boats to enter the country during the pandemic. The locals welcomed sailors into their homes.Joanna Hutchinson

Fiji set a glowing example for other Pacific countries this past sailing season by successfully opening its borders to cruisers. The country consequently welcomed over 90 foreign boats, over 300 crew and an estimated $10 million to its shores.

The Blue Lane initiative, launched in June, set strict guidelines for pleasure craft to follow in order to enter Fiji. This protocol involved sailors having to activate their AIS for their entire trip so that the Fijian navy could confirm uninterrupted sailing, along with quarantining crew on board their vessels for a total of 14 days, including passage time. Additionally, all crew had to take a COVID-19 test and obtain a negative result within 72 hours of leaving their original country and again two days before their 14-day quarantine was up.

While Port Denarau is currently the only port of clearance in Fiji, once finished with their quarantine, boats are free to cruise the different island groups as usual.

Many boats stayed for cyclone season.Joanna Hutchinson

Though small in number compared with the usual 750 boats that visit Fiji every year, the cruisers that arrived have helped contribute toward Fiji’s suffering tourism industry. They’ve provided the sailmakers, mechanics, electricians, taxi drivers and dive operators with a much-needed income, without which they might not have been able to survive the past few months. Due to a lack of onward destinations, the majority of these boats remained in Fiji during the 2020-21 cyclone season, providing further income for the industry.

United States Ambassador to Fiji, Joseph Cella, invited cruisers who’d participated in this initiative to a buffet brunch to celebrate its success, and there he highly commended the Fijian government for the way it has contained COVID-19. With only 35 cases in total, and no community cases for nearly 6 months, Fiji has handled this pandemic extremely well, with its Blue Lane initiative being a testament to its success. Let’s hope more countries follow suit next season.