The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) is calling on the federal government to lift a suspension that bans cruise ships from stopping in Canadian ports.
Currently, Transport Canada has ordered a suspension on all cruise ships from stopping in Canadian ports until Feb. 28, 2022.
American cruise ships transporting passengers between U.S. ports are required to stop at a foreign port under the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (PVSA). For example, ships sailing from Washington to Alaska are required to make a stop in Vancouver or Victoria as part of their itinerary.
Last month, however, a temporary exemption to the PVSA was signed into law in order to allow cruise ships to bypass Canada for the 2021 season due to the current travel restrictions in place from Transport Canada.
This week, U.S. Senator Mike Lee tabled a bill that would repeal the PVSA and make the temporary exemption permanent, meaning ships travelling to Alaska would not be required to make a stop in a British Columbian port.
Although this bill has yet to gain support and become legislation, the mere threat of it has the GVHA advocating Transport Canada for the current suspension of ships calling to Canadian waters to end by this fall.
“Cruise lines need time to prepare for the full resumption of cruise and the Government of Canada, through Transport Canada, needs to signal that they are prepared to welcome the industry back in a safe and measured way,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the GVHA. “We continue to work with the provincial government and industry partners to ask Transport Canada to confirm that cruise is welcome back to Canada.”
The GVHA says that this legislation becoming permanent would “decimate” the $2.7 billion cruise industry in British Columbia.
The harbour authority emphasizes that while it is in “full agreement” that the health and safety of the community remains a top priority, it says that decisions for what happens in 2022 need to be made now.
“The decision needs to be made in line with the reopening plans for the Canada-USA land and marine borders. We cannot afford to play roulette with something that is such a vital economic lifeline for our province,” said Robertson.
Once news of the bill, tabled by U.S. Sen. Lee, was made public, B.C.’s Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told CHEK News that it is a great concern that this legislation has been proposed.
“I have been engaged with the Federal government on this issue for some time and am requesting urgent meetings with the federal Minister of Transportation and the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.,” Fleming told CHEK.
“We have also just spoken to the Prime Minister’s Office about this. This is not what cruise ship travellers want: Americans and international tourists want to visit Canadian destinations, and it enriches the experience cruise operators can offer to their passengers.”
Cruise ships have been banned from Canadian ports since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.