MSC Cruises has received a health and safety certification from the official Japanese maritime classification society, ClassNK.

The move is a major step towards an operational restart in the country scheduled for April.

The certification of MSC Cruises’ health and safety protocol for Biosafety Management System (Covid-19) now paves the way for the line to open sales in December to local residents for cruises homeporting in Japan.

Work will also start with ports in the country to prepare for the forthcoming season.

Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises chief executive, said: “We are extremely pleased to have received this certification and are now confident that we will be able to restart our Japan operation serving the local market by April 2021.”

Health and safety operating protocols of port authorities in Japan and MSC Cruises will also follow guidelines established by JOPA, the Japan Oceangoing Passenger Ship Association.

MSC Bellissima, which was launched in 2019, will be deployed to Japan, homeport in Yokohama to sail six to nine-night cruises in April, May and June 2021.

She is also scheduled to operate in the country during October and November 2021.

Junichi Hirata, ClassNK general manager of innovation and sustainability department, said: “This is the first important step of a longer-term plan for MSC Cruises to resume Japanese cruise operations in the first half of 2021, and we will now work closely with the line towards that goal.”

European classification society RINA last month awarded MSC Cruises with its biosafe ship additional class notation for the line’s flagship MSC Grandiosa which is currently operating in the Mediterranean Sea.