Maritime ports look to retain pre-pandemic cruise ship traffic

While Canada’s cruise ship ban is ending months ahead of schedule, large passenger vessels aren’t expected to enter Maritime harbours until 2022.

“We’ve got a schedule next year, right now, of 70 cruise ships with 188,000 passengers,” says Andrew Dixon, vice president of trade and business development at the Port of Saint John.

Dixon says the port’s goal is to keep that schedule in tact.

“We’ll obviously be going out to the cruise lines now looking to firm those reservations up,” he says. “The other wild card is how full the ships will be. We wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be at the high 90 percentile level.”

In January 2020, the Port of Saint John was preparing for what was supposed to be a record year (with over 90 vessel calls and 200,000-passenger expected). A few weeks later, Transport Canada’s cruise ship ban came into effect.

In 2022, the Port of Saint John is expecting a return to cruise ship traffic by May. The Port of Halifax says its schedule could kick off by mid-April.

“Now, the work is going to be in reconnecting with all those cruise partners to make sure we have the protocols in place to allow for the safe return of cruises,” says Lane Farguson, spokesperson for the Port of Halifax, who acknowledges a long-term recovery ahead.

“It’s going to take awhile to rebuild, two-to-three years,” he says.

In 2019, the Port of Halifax saw 179 vessels in the harbour carrying 323,700 passengers.