(Updated 5:03 p.m. EDT) -- Transport Canada has banned all cruise ships over 100 persons (passengers and crew) from operating within its waters until October 31, effectively ending the 2020 cruise season on both coasts.
The move was announced by Minister of Transport Marc Garneau and follows Canada's earlier decision to ban cruise ships from operating in Canadian waters until July 1.
"Our Government is committed to protecting Canadians, particularly during these challenging times," said Garneau in a statement. "It is for that reason I am announcing updated measures for cruise ships and other passenger vessels in Canada, which includes prohibiting larger cruise ships from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020.
"Our Government continues to work with other levels of government, transportation industry stakeholders, and Indigenous peoples to re-examine measures and to ensure Canada's transportation system remains safe and secure during this time. We are all in this together."
The ban does not affect vessels with a capacity to carry fewer than 100 people (passengers and crew), which are allowed to resume operations as of July 1, 2020, pending local regulatory approval. This could see some operators, like Vancouver Island-based Maple Leaf Adventures, resume limited cruising operations prior to the end of the season.
Vessels capable of carrying more that 12 persons continue to be banned from Canada's Arctic, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast. This ends the lucrative Arctic expedition season.
For the broader cruise industry, however, the outcome is bleak. Transport Canada's announcement ends any hope for a reduced Alaska season from Vancouver and Seattle; eliminates the possibility of Pacific Coastal or repositioning voyages; ends any transatlantic voyages scheduled to terminate on ports on Canada's East Coast, and puts an end to any cruises expecting to visit ports in Canada's Maritime provinces and Quebec.
The notice by Transport Canada provides no information on whether this policy will be reviewed in advance of the 2021 cruise season, which kicks off in Vancouver in late-April. The ban does not affect essential services like ferries and water taxis.
"Based on science, data and consultation with other levels of government, industry stakeholders, Indigenous groups and coastal communities, the Government of Canada believes that COVID-19 continues to represent a health risk," Transport Canada told Cruise Critic in an email. "As a result, it is extending the deferral of the cruise ship season for vessels of this size to protect the safety of people in Canadian ports."
Economic Impact to Ports
A statement issued by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) says that while it appreciates the guidance from Transport Canada, Victoria's economic impact will be greatly felt by the absence of the cruise industry this year.
"Cruise represents 70 percent of our annual revenues, which supports our operations across all properties, including community amenities such as the Ogden Point Breakwater, Inner Harbour Lower Causeway, Ship Point, and Fisherman’s Wharf," the GVHA notes in a statement on its website. "Without cruise revenues in 2020, we will need to explore how we maintain these facilities for community use over the next several years. This will include further deferring capital projects and reducing maintenance and repairs, while not compromising safety."
"Beyond our not-for-profit organization, cruise supports 800 indirect and direct jobs in Victoria and contributes more than $130 million to the regional economy each year. We also want to acknowledge that dozens of cruise-related small businesses and their staff members in Greater Victoria are deeply impacted by the loss of cruise this year."
"The safety of passengers and guests who visit Canada Place is extremely important to us," said Peter Xotta, vice president planning and operations at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which operates the Port of Vancouver. "We will support and follow the direction of Transport Canada regarding changes to the upcoming cruise season in Canada. As we actively monitor the Canadian and international response to this extraordinary circumstance, we continue to be in discussions with our cruise line, industry, government, tourism, and destination partners to look ahead to the 2021 season."
“We understand the federal government’s motivations,” said Barry Penner, legal advisor to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Northwest & Canada. “In fact, the cruise industry was one of the first to voluntarily suspend operations when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March...Nevertheless, we recognize the adverse economic impacts the stoppage of cruise business in Canada is having on our cruise partners, such as longshore workers, tour operators, taxi drivers, hotel employees, numerous workers in the agricultural, manufacturing and food and beverage industries, as well as travel agents across the country.”
The GVHA alone has already laid off approximately 50 percent of its staff as a result of the previous cruise ban that was in place through July 1. According to CLIA Northwest & Canada, approximately 29,000 workers across Canada were directly employed by the cruise industry in 2018, up from 23,000 workers two years earlier. The cruise industry in Canada generated more than $4.1 billion in total economic activity in 2018.
On June 2, Cruise the Saint Lawrence announced the official cancellation of the international cruise season in the region for 2020. Cruises were scheduled for 560 days in port and a total of 567 000 passenger-days for the nine Cruise Saint Lawrence ports of call: Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Québec, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre Saint-Pierre, Gaspé and Îles de la Madeleine. Cruise the Saint Lawrence estimates the cruise industry in Québec would have contributed $1 billion in direct, indirect and induced economic impact for the province, as well as 7,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“The 2020 season had been shaping up to be the best of the past decade," said Tony Boemi, president of Cruise the Saint Lawrence. "Over the years, numerous tourism-based businesses have developed alongside or as a result of cruise industry activities, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs and contributing substantially to economic growth in multiple towns, cities and regions. We appeal to the government to help these businesses traverse the crisis at hand.”
The Port of Halifax also announced it was suspending its entire cruise season for 2020 following Transport Canada's decision. It, too, was expecting a record-breaking year, with 350,000 cruise passengers arriving to the city via 203 scheduled cruise visits. Now, those visits will drop to zero.
While many cruise lines have already suspended voyages throughout the summer months, all cruise lines with vessels over 100 people will be forced to cancel any remaining 2020 voyages calling on Canadian ports of call prior to October 31. Several lines, including Princess and Royal Caribbean, have already adjusted their cruising schedules. Affected passengers will be notified by their respective cruise line.