Canadian cruise ports to close until July says Trudeau

Cruise vessel in Alaska. Credit: Shutterstock

The docking of all cruise ships and ferries carrying more than 500 people, including crew, has been banned until July 2020, Canada’s federal government has declared.

Canada joins other countries such as India and Malaysia in banning cruises from docking in their respective countries to limit the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Cruise season is suspended until July,” said Justin Trudeau Canadian prime minister in a public address. It is thought this ban will impact predominantly Alaskan cruises, as this is now its peak season.

The situation is further complicated as US federal law requires foreign flagged vessels to call on a foreign port in between US port calls. So, a foreign flagged vessel embarking on an Alaskan cruise, leaving a US port must call at a port in Canada, either Vancouver or Victoria, before it can call at an Alaskan port. The second closest foreign port to Alaska is Esenada in Mexico, and 58,000 km away. This is incapsulated under the ‘cabotage laws’ of the Jones Act, which promotes the preferential treatment of US flagged vessels in US waters.

Cruises on the east coast of Canada will also be affected on routes transiting from New England to Montreal. With projections of 1.44 million cruise passengers expected to travel to Alaska, up 6% from 2019, according to Cruise Lines International Association Alaska, the closure of Canadian ports will have a dramatic impact on the economy of these lines. Ian Robertson, CEO of Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) estimated that the cruise season brings between USD65-70 million to the local economy.

“We respect the decision by the Government of Canada in putting health and safety of Canadians first,” said the GVHA in a statement. “We will work to engage with our cruise partners and terminal operators to comply with the decision. In dealing with the impact of COVID-19, the health and safety of everyone is always our top concern.”