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Canada to allow cruise ships to dock at ports starting November 2021

Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra held a press conference in Victoria on July 15 to announce that the country will be open for a 2022 cruise season.  The country’s ban on allowing cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers from docking at Canadian ports is to officially end on November 1, 2021 – about four months earlier than the previous end date, which was set for February 28, 2022.  Docking the ships will be contingent on them complying with Canadian public health requirements. 

B.C.’s cruise season for large ships travelling between Seattle and Alaska does not normally get underway until April or May, so the announcement is not likely to change when the first large ships actually dock at B.C. ports.  Industry insiders, however, have long wanted clarity that the Canadian government would allow the 2022 season to go ahead, and not impose an even longer ban. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority data show that Vancouver welcomed more than one million passengers in 2019.

It estimated that each docked cruise ship brings in about £3 million in economic impact to Metro Vancouver. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) data show that when other B.C. ports are included, the province welcomed 1,792,400 passengers in 2019. That helped generate a direct and indirect economic impact on the province worth more than £2.7 billion. CLIA pinned the number of direct and indirect cruise-related jobs in B.C. pre-pandemic at 17,379, worth £878.6 million in wages. 

Cruise sector insiders, such as Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Ian Robertson, told Glacier Media that they feared for the industry’s future because the U.S. put in place a temporary law that enables cruise ships to bypass B.C.  Alaska Representative Don Young during the pandemic implored B.C. Premier John Horgan to urge the federal government to allow so-called “technical calls,” which would allow cruise ships to dock at Canadian ports as long as no one leaves the vessels.

Young threatened to introduce legislation in Congress to allow a temporary override to a U.S. government law that requires foreign-flagged vessels to touch an international port on voyages that start and stop at U.S. ports. Horgan dismissed his effort as a “blip along the way as a result of frustration by Alaska,” and something that was not likely to be successful. When the initiative passed in Congress, Young, on May 20, tweeted to Horgan, saying “don’t underestimate Don Young and the Alaska delegation. Our bill, the ‘blip’ as you say, is now headed to be signed into law.”

That bill has since been passed in the U.S. Senate, and signed by U.S. President Joe Biden, making it law.

The law is set to expire as soon as Canada once again allows cruise ships to dock at Canadian ports.  Cruise lines have put in place 2021 schedules that include direct sailings between Seattle and Alaska.  Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam, for example, is set to sail out of Seattle directly to Alaksa on July 24. 

More to come …

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