Nova Scotia

Sydney can weather loss of Russian cruise ships, says port official

The Russian government cancelled leases on two cruise ships based in Canada, and that decision will have a small effect on port operations in Sydney, N.S.

Port manager says One Ocean Expeditions still has one ship calling in Cape Breton this season

The Russian government unexpectedly cancelled leases on the Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov, which were under contract to B.C.-based One Ocean Expeditions. (One Ocean Expeditions)

A Russian government decision to cancel two cruise ship leases shouldn't cause too many problems for Sydney, N.S.

Last week, B.C.-based polar cruise line One Ocean Expeditions said the Akademic Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov were suddenly unavailable.

They had been under lease from Russia for the last eight years and were expected to be on the water this season.

One Ocean Expeditions, founded by Sydney's Andrew Prossin, had planned to have ships call in Cape Breton several times this year.

Prossin has also said he planned to use Sydney as a home port, once a second cruise ship berth is built.

But the cancelled leases leave the company with only one ship, the RCGS Resolute, still booked for tours.

Christina Lamey, manager of cruise marketing and development for the Port of Sydney, said One Ocean's troubles shouldn't have a major impact on local port operations.

"It's a slight change to our schedule," she said.

"It's two calls that would be coming through to Sydney and then Louisbourg, but they are also … working to expand the Resolute's offerings, so I'm not quite sure yet what that might mean for the rest of the season."

Christina Lamey, manager of cruise marketing, said the cancellations won't be a big problem for the port schedule. (Holly Conners/CBC)

One Ocean stated earlier this week it is working to get more ships. No one from the company was available for comment.

"It's all, obviously, a very fluid situation right now, and we're ready to assist whenever they're ready to announce the full plans for their season," said Lamey.

The cancellations won't be a problem for the port schedule, which is always flexible because weather and other itinerary changes can impact cruise ship calls, she said.

Small revenue loss

The changes will mean only a small loss of revenue for the port, said Lamey, because One Ocean only had two calls scheduled this season and they only hold a little more than 100 passengers each.

That loss may be tempered if the Resolute visits more often, or if the company acquires another ship.

It's also still possible that the company could use Sydney as a home port.

"We're looking forward to doing a lot of work over the next number of years with One Ocean," said Lamey. "Our location is perfect for them for what they want to do in terms of Arctic expedition touring."

Lamey said the port of Sydney is looking forward to at least one home port call from One Ocean Expeditions' RCGS Resolute. (One Ocean Expeditions)

Becoming home port could mean millions of dollars in economic activity for Sydney, she said.

Passengers fly in and out of home ports. Trips start and end there and passengers often use local hotels and tour the area.

The cruise operators also spend money locally on fuel and provisions.

"That's an incredible value-added to a ship call," said Lamey.

"That One Ocean is doing that with us is wonderful, and we're looking forward to doing some of that with the Resolute this year — hopefully, even more than we expected — and looking forward to what they have coming next for their company."

Used to harsh environments

Lamey said she expects One Ocean will bounce back from its unexpected setback.

"They're a very resilient company. They definitely do business in the toughest parts of the world, so I'm sure this is just another difficulty they're navigating."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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