On Thursday, Omar Alghabra, transport minister for Canada, announced in Vancouver that the ban of cruise ships sailing in Canadian waters will end as of November 1, 2021. That's an early end for the nation's previously announced one-year ban for cruise ships and Arctic pleasure craft; it was originally slated to end February 28, 2022.
"We will welcome cruise ships—an important part of our tourism sector—back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season," Alghabra said. So, cruise lines can once again make plans for the 2022 Alaska summer cruise season with ships sailing from Vancouver or Victoria.
The Economic Hit
"We know that the maritime and tourism sectors have been hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic," Alghabra said the announcement about ending the ban earlier than anticipated.
The cruise industry contributes more than $4 billion annually to the Canadian economy and directly and indirectly generates 30,000 jobs.
This year's passage of legislation by the U.S. Congress temporarily exempted foreign-flagged cruise ships—comprising the bulk of the cruise industry—from a U.S. law that requires these vessels to make a foreign port call when sailing between U.S. ports. As a result, large cruise ships are sailing from Seattle directly to Alaska ports this month during the 2021 Alaska cruise season. But the end of that Canadian ban will mean those foreign-flagged ships will again need to make a foreign port call when sailing between U.S. ports after November 1.
While that won't impact this year's Alaska season sailings, it signals a return to embarkations/disembarkations and port calls by foreign-flagged vessels at Vancouver or Victoria for the 2022 Alaska season.
"As we reopen safely, we are already preparing for the upcoming cruise season that will help grow our economy," Alghabra said, noting that even though cruise ships would be welcome on or after November 1, operators would need to fully comply with Canada's public health requirements.
Charlie Ball, chair of Cruise Lines International Association – North West & Canada (CLIA-NWC) welcomed Canada's announcement, saying it "provides greater clarity for a return to cruise to Canada for next year," and will allow lines to begin important planning to restore 30,000 jobs and $4.3 billion in economic activity across Canada.
That said, "before we can resume operations in Canada next year, cruise lines will need to re-establish supply chains with local businesses, such as tour operators, hotels, food suppliers, transportation and technical support providers, as well as travel agents,” he emphasized.
Ball added that the extra time the announcement provides will also allow cruise lines to more effectively market cruise itineraries that include stops in Canada for the first time since 2019.
CLIA-NWC stressed that much had changed since the pandemic began early last year:
- More than 600,000 passengers and crew have sailed safely with new safety/health protocols in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific
- More than 30 cruise ships have returned to operation
- Cruises to Alaska from Seattle have resumed and will continue through the summer and into fall 2021
“CLIA member cruise lines place the health and safety of their passengers, crew and the communities they visit as their top priority,” said Ball. “We thank our cruise and tourism partners in Canada for their expressions of support, and look forward to working with the Government of Canada, provincial authorities and our many partners as we develop plans for a successful 2022 cruise season.”
Transport Canada also said it will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada, other levels of government, the United States government, transportation industry stakeholders, indigenous peoples and Arctic communities to help ensure Canadians and Canada’s transportation system remain safe and secure.
“I would like to thank the federal government for working collaboratively and constructively with us, and for taking action on this issue that is an important part of BC’s economy, said Rob Fleming, minister of transportation and infrastructure for British Columbia.
Mayor Lisa Helps of the City of Victoria, B.C., said "our local economy has definitely taken a hit," and thanked the Canadian government for "for doing the necessary work to keep Canadians safe during the pandemic, but also for understanding how much the cruise industry means to the entire south island and for making this announcement today to give predictability and certainty to the industry going forward.”