OTTAWA — Large cruise ships will continue to be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until at least Oct. 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s transport minister announced Friday.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the order applies to cruise ships with overnight accommodations and more than 100 passengers and crew. The move extends and expands an order issued in mid-March that barred ships with more than 500 passengers from Canadian waters until July.
Smaller ships will be allowed to operate after July 1, but only with the permission of provincial and regional health officials. However, vessels with more than 12 passengers will be barred from going to the Arctic until at least Oct. 31, for fear that one might carry the virus to a remote northern community.
“Keeping Canadians and transportation workers safe continues to be my top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Garneau said.
Garneau said he understands this will create a significant economic hardship for Canada’s tourism industry. He indicated the federal tourism department is working on a plan to help.
Last year, 140 cruise ships brought more than 2 million visitors to Canadian ports. A 2016 study found the cruise contributed more than $3 billion Canadian (US$2.1 billion) to Canada’s economy, including nearly $1.4 billion Canadian (US$1.01 billion) in direct spending by cruise lines and their passengers. More than 23,000 Canadians were directly or indirectly employed because of cruise ships.
British Columbia, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces benefit the most.
Prince Edward Island will be among the areas hurt by the order, said the CEO of the island’s Charlottetown Harbour Authority, Mike Cochrane.
“The human impact is dramatic, there’s no question about it,? he said. “To see it all come to a halt, it’s a very sad day for us.”
“You look at mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, tour bus operators, taxis, Green Gables — it reaches everywhere,” Cochrane added.
Cruise ships were one of the first and worst-hit sectors from in the pandemic, with hundreds of passengers falling ill on ships sailing in various parts of the world. Transport Canada monitored hundreds of ships with Canadians on board as the vessels battled outbreaks or weren’t allowed to dock in planned ports as countries closed to foreign tourists to keep the coronavirus out.
Several hundred Canadians were flown back to Canada and quarantined in Ontario after disembarking ships with outbreaks that docked in Japan and California. At least a dozen passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship were diagnosed with COVID-19 after being quarantined in Trenton. One Canadian who had been on board the Diamond Princess died in Japan in March after being hospitalized with COVID-19.
The Associated Press