Cruise industry competitors Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NASDAQ:NCLH) and Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) have formed a panel of health and safety experts to create a template for operating safely once the companies resume operations. The industry's trade group, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), announced last month that the industry has voluntarily agreed to postpone restarting cruise operations from U.S. ports until at least the middle of September 2020.

The companies say they have established the "Healthy Sail Panel" to be co-chaired by former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, and former Utah Governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. 

view from cruise ship deck with life preserver on rail

Image source: Getty Images.

The panel has been working for a month, and plans to issue initial recommendations by the end of August, the cruise lines said. It is tasked with "collaboratively developing recommendations for cruise lines to advance their public health response to COVID-19, improve safety, and achieve readiness for the safe resumption of operations," Norwegian said in a statement. The companies said the results of the panel will be shared with the rest of the industry and with regulators. 

The panel consists of experts in "public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality, and maritime operations." Other members include former FDA Chief Scientist Dr. Stephen Ostroff, Merck (NYSE:MRK) Chief Patient Officer Dr. Julie Gerberding, Norwegian EVP for Vessel Operations Robin Lindsay, and other public health and academic experts. 

The goal of assembling the group of leading experts is to "develop best practices that can improve safety and provide a roadmap for reducing the risks of COVID-19," said Dr. Gottlieb.