The Government of Canada has banned cruise ships until the end of February, 2022.
The government also advised Canadian citizens and residents to avoid all cruise ship travel.
It said that this move was in response to the continued risk cruise vessels in Canadian waters pose to the health care system.
“As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe.
“Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do,” said Canadian Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra.
Canada announced two orders to stop cruise ships from operating in Canadian waters and pleasure crafts and passenger ships from Canadian Arctic waters until 28th February, 2022.
Cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers are prohibited from Canadian waters, which in effect blocks both the 2021 Alaska cruise season, as well as itineraries on the East Coast known as New England/Canada, local media reported.
Canada invoked the first ban on large cruise ships in mid-March, 2020 later extending it until its current expiration, which had been set for 28th February, 2021.
“With these prohibitions in place, public health authorities will be able to continue focusing on the most pressing issues, including the vaccine rollout and new COVID-19 variants,” the announcement said. “To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada continues to advise Canadian citizens and permanent residents to avoid all travel on cruise ships outside Canada until further notice.”
In addition to the cruise ship ban, Canada is also extending the bans on pleasure craft and passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast. Pleasure craft used by local Arctic residents are exempt.
Essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, are also exempt, as are small cruise ships that carry 100 or fewer people.
These are advised to continue to follow local public health guidance and protocols and follow mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future outbreaks.
Meanwhile, US Federal Maritime Commissioner (FMC) Louis Sola has come out in support of the waiving of US cabotage requirements as a possible temporary solution to restore cruises to Alaska this year.
Similar calls have come from Alaska’s elected representatives and the cruise industry to try to find a solution to restore tourism to Alaska this summer.
“I encourage both the Biden administration and Congress to quickly review this issue and consider a limited exception to the PVSA (Passenger Vessel Services Act) while simultaneously engaging the Canadian government on the diplomatic front to address this particular problem,” Sola said in a statement.
“Finding a temporary solution to this dilemma that balances Canadian concerns with the urgent need of communities in Alaska to benefit from a 2021 cruise season should be an area where our respective governments can find common ground.”
Sola’s statement comes as US Senators, Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, all representing Alaska, released a joint statement saying; “As the state with the most extensive shared border with Canada, the Alaska Delegation has worked in good-faith to seek compromise over border crossing restrictions due to COVID-19, keeping in mind the health and safety of Alaskans and Canadians.
“Canada’s announcement to ban all cruise sailings carrying 100 people or more travelling through Canadian waters, without so much as a courtesy conversation with the Alaska Delegation, is not only unexpected—it is unacceptable—and was certainly not a decision made with any consideration for Alaskans or our economy. We expect more from our Canadian allies.
“Upon hearing the announcement, we immediately reached out to Canadian and American agencies to try to understand the rationale behind this decision—particularly the duration of the ban. We are exploring all potential avenues, including changing existing laws, to ensure the cruise industry in Alaska resumes operations as soon as it is safe. We will fight to find a path forward,” the statement read.