The federal government has announced an extension to the current nationwide ban on large cruise ships until at least the end of February.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau revealed on Thursday that the ban applies to all vessels with 100 or more overnight passenger spaces.
The same extension is being applied to the ban on smaller vessels carrying 12 or more passengers in Arctic coastal waters as well.
Cruise ships were early hot spots for COVID-19 with hundreds of passengers falling ill and ships being stranded at sea as multiple countries began refusing them in ports.
The current ban on big cruise ships in Canadian waters was set to expire at the end of October.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) says it has made it a “top priority” to plan for the return of cruise ships in 2021 in a way that will ensure the community, guests, and crew are kept safe.
Ian Robertson, CEO of the GVHA, says that he continues to stand by the regulations being applied by Transport Canada amid the pandemic.
“When Transport Canada suspended cruise visitation in Canada until July 1 and then extended it to Oct. 31, 2020, I fully supported this decision. With today’s extension to February 28, 2021, I continue to support their decision-making process and outcomes. Nothing is more important than reducing the risk of COVID-19 and keeping our community safe,” Robertson said.
Although Robertson supports Transport Canada’s ban on big cruise ships, he is advocating – along with other ports across Canada – for a decision timeline and process for the safe return of cruise to Canadian waters.
“I will continue to engage with Transport Canada on this,” states Robertson. “Our organization is also engaged with cruise line management as they develop and unveil their plans for a safe return of cruise in other markets, as well as on the west coast of Canada.”
The CEO of the GVHA says the organization is planning for cruising to resume in 2021 and preparation is currently underway in order to prepare the Victoria Cruise Terminal for the safe arrival of guests.
The COVID-19 pandemic sank the 2020 cruise season before it started, resulting in the cancellation of over 300 ships that were expected to bring over 770,000 to Vancouver Island.
Canada banned cruise ships with overnight accommodation for at least 500 passengers back in mid-March.
Most cruise lines stopped sailing entirely in the spring, but several have now resumed operations or plan to before the end of the year.
With files to the Canadian Press.