Canada Extends Cruise Ban Effectively Ending 2020 Cruise Season

Vancouver cruise terminal - file photo courtesy of Port Vancouver

Published May 29, 2020 10:43 AM by The Maritime Executive

Canadian Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced that Canada would extend its ban on large cruise ships which effectively ended any hope of the 2020 cruise season for Canadian ports.

Cruise ships with overnight accommodations for more than 100 persons are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020. This extends the ban that was announced in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which closed the ports until July 1.

The ban also continues to prohibit passenger vessels that carry more than 12 persons from entering the Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast, until October 31, 2020. However, the government noted that the restrictions on Canada’s Arctic waters do not apply to pleasure craft used by local communities, or used for purposes such as essential transportation or subsistence fishing, harvesting and hunting.

Beginning July 1, 2020, Canada will also allow passenger vessels to operate on its inland rivers and lakes in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon, and essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, should continue to operate using mitigation measures. 

“Our Government is committed to protecting Canadians, particularly during these challenging times,” said Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation. “It is for that reason I am announcing updated measures for cruise ships and other passenger vessels in Canada, which includes prohibiting larger cruise ships from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020. Our Government continues to work with other levels of government, transportation industry stakeholders, and Indigenous peoples to re-examine measures and to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe and secure during this time.”

In recent weeks, there had been increasing doubts about the possibility of a cruise season for Canada in 2020. The health ministers in British Columbia said that they did not think cruising was appropriate for 2020, while port officials in Halifax and Port Saint John, New Brunswick had expressed their doubts about cruise ship arrivals at their points in 2020.

Canadian ports normally receive cruise ships headed both to Alaska as well as cruises along the Atlantic Coast and on the St. Lawrence River. Over 600 cruises had been scheduled for the Alaskan market in 2020 expected to bring a record 1.44 million passengers to the region. Many of the largest cruise operators in the region, including, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, had previously announced the cancelation of their 2020 cruises to Alaska, but there had remained hope that the fall foliage cruises might still be permitted to operate especially to ports including Halifax, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Montreal.

Canada’s decision will also have an impact on neighboring ports in the United States, including Seattle, Boston, and Bar Harbor, Marine, which also participates in the seasonal cruise trade in the region.