Cruise ships will be banned from entering Canadian waters for another year in an attempt to contain COVID-19, according to the federal government.
The ban is extended until at least Feb. 28, 2022, and applies to all commercial cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers, as well as pleasure crafts operating in the Arctic, with the exception of pleasure crafts used by residents of the region.
The move expands an order issued in mid-March 2020 that barred ships with more than 500 passengers.
A news release from transport minister Omar Alghabra says the ban is necessary to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus and its variants to protect vulnerable communities.
He says it will allow public health authorities to focus on pressing issues such as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and containing variants of the virus.
Lane Farguson of the Halifax Port Authority says his team was prepared for the news.
“We were hopeful that we would see some cruise activity later in the summer, but today’s announcement affirmed that preparation,” said Farguson.
Farguson says the ban will not directly affect the port authority’s employees because staff have been able to pivot into other positions amid the cruise suspension.
“We have been able to reassign staff to other areas, so for us we haven’t seen job losses but I know there are business closures that attribute the cruise season to their losses,” said Farguson.
One of Halifax’s more recognized businesses, NovaScotian Crystal, publically cited the lack of tourists and the cancelled cruise season having played a role in its planned closure.
“We know and recognize the effect the lack of cruise traffic is having on some businesses, and that’s one of the hardest things about all of this,” said Farguson.
Farguson says the Halifax Port Authority sees 175 cruise vessels on average entering Atlantic Canada through Halifax. Approximately 300,000 cruise ship passengers visit Halifax each year.
“The industry in Halifax is worth about $171.8 million each year in terms of economic benefits for the region,” said Farguson.
The cruise ship industry is one of the main economic drivers in the East Coast. Tourists who often enter Canada through Halifax will also visit rural parts of the Maritimes such as Peggy’s Cove, Cape Breton and P.E.I.
The cruise industry in B.C. is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
According to the Port of Vancouver, the cruise industry is critical to the region’s economic recovery.
“The Vancouver cruise industry is a key contributor to the local economy, stimulating $3.17 million in direct economic activity for each ship that calls at Canada Place, and $2.2 billion of total economic impact,” according to a news release.
Farguson says after putting dining, hotel accommodation and tourism attractions into consideration, cruise ships account for millions of dollars generated on the East Coast.
“With no vessels being called for a second year in a row, it’s going to leave a sizeable economic hole in the province,” said Farguson.
He says despite the disappointing news, the Port of Halifax prioritizes safety and respects the direction coming from Transport Canada.
“The cruise industry is something we’re looking forward to rebuilding as soon as the opportunity allows,” said Farguson.