Summary of Issue/Background
- Since March 2020, Transport Canada has implemented a number of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in cruise ships and ferries, including Interim OrdersFootnote 1 under the Canada Shipping Act that:
- prohibit cruise ships with overnight accomodations and certified capacity to carry more than 100 people from operating in Canadian waters;
- prohibit any passenger vessels certified to carry more than 12 passengers to enter Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast; and
- require essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, to follow all public health guidance and protocols.
- On July 15, 2021, the Minister of Transport announced that the end of the ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters would be brought forward to November 1, 2021, from February 28, 2022 to facilitate the planning for a safe restart for the cruise season in 2022.
- Transport Canada is working with the cruise industry, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and other partners to put in place the public health provisions and others arrangements to enable cruise ships to safely resume visits to Canadian ports when the season begins next year.
- Most cruise ships affected by the current restrictions are foreign-flagged vessels.
- Pursuant to the United States (U.S.) Passenger Vessel Services Act, foreign flag passenger ships must stop at a foreign port when operating between two U.S. ports. The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act was signed by President Biden on May 24, 2021, which exempts foreign flagged passenger ships travelling between U.S. from making a stop at a Canadian port before transiting to Alaska. This measure is temporary and is proposed to expire at the earliest of Canada ending its prohibition or March 31, 2022.
- In September 2021, U.S Senator Murkowski announced her intention to propose a bill to permenantly exempt Alaskan cruises carrying more than 1,000 passengers from the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act. A similar proposal was introduced to Congress this summer. Currently under the act, foreign-built ships are not allowed to carry passengers between two U.S. ports without a stopover in a foreign country. If either of these bills are passed, it would have a negative impact on Canada’s tourism industry, particularly in British Columbia. The Government of Canada’s plan to restart cruising for the 2022 season should help to reduce the risk of this occurring.
- Transport Canada, PHAC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Transportation, provinces, territories, Indigenous and Inuit Communities, and the industry continue to work together to ensure that Canada is well positioned for a safe restart to cruising for the 2022 season.
- The cruise ship industry represents more than $4 billion annual input into the Canadian economy and is important to Canada’s tourism sector.
- Transport Canada is committed to the health and safety of Canadians and to effectively restarting the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Recognizing that health conditions continue to improve and that international borders have re-opened, Transport Canada is committed to lifting the cruise ship ban on November 1, 2021 and will work towards a full cruising season in 2022 if operators are able to fully comply with public health requirements.
- Transport Canada has been and will continue to pursue a series of consultations and engagements to establish and develop a plan for a successful restart of cruise ship sailing in Canada for the 2022 season.