British Columbia

Cruise ships to be allowed to visit Canadian ports in November

Cruise ships will be allowed back in Canadian waters on Nov. 1, ending a ban after 16 months, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Thursday in Victoria.

Vessels must comply with public safety measures, transport minister says

Cruise ships are pictured in Vancouver in May 2016. Ships will be allowed back in Canadian waters and ports on Nov. 1 after a months-long ban, the transport minister said Thursday. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

Cruise ships will be allowed back in Canadian waters on Nov. 1, the federal transport minister announced Thursday.

Minister Omar Alghabra said cruise companies will be required to "fully comply with public health requirements" in order to sail through Canada's waters and dock at its ports.

Federal officials had originally extended the cruise ship ban until the end of February. Speaking from Victoria on Thursday, Alghabra said the government felt it was possible to shorten the restriction period since the country has made progress with vaccinations and reducing COVID-19 case counts.

The ban has been devastating to port communities, which have long relied on tourism. The cruise ship industry contributed over $4.1 billion to the Canadian economy in 2018 and led to 29,000 jobs, according to the Cruise Lines International Association — Northwest and Canada.

More than $2.3 billion of that economic activity and roughly 15,000 of those jobs were in B.C. 

Full reopening planned for 2022

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority says it and the industry at large are preparing for a full reopening of the industry in 2022.

"While many of the organizations that work in the cruise industry in Greater Victoria have suffered from financial losses, their dedication and commitment to the industry did not falter throughout the last one-and-a-half years," it said in a statement.

The Charlottetown Harbour Authority said it's unlikely ships will dock in P.E.I. before the end of this year, but agreed the sector is setting its sights on the spring season.

The Charlottetown Port Authority once believed the 2020 cruise ship season would be its 'biggest year yet,' with 97 visits scheduled. The revenue all but disappeared when the cruise ship ban came into effect in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

"There's no question it's been difficult for everybody involved in any part of the tourism industry, so I think it'll be a very emotional and very rewarding day for everybody to see cruise [ships] come back to Charlottetown," CEO Mike Cochrane told CBC News. 

"We're looking forward to working with our provincial health officials … to ensure that it's a safe and it's a solid return for the cruise ship industry in Canada."

Conservative transport critic Stephanie Kusie issued a statement after Alghabra's announcement Thursday welcoming the news.

"For over a year, tens of thousands of tourism and transportation workers have suffered the effects of uncertainty and changing goal posts from the Liberal government. We welcome today's announcement and expect they will follow through with their commitment," she wrote. 

With files from Sheehan Desjardins


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