Canada extends cruise ship ban

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On February 4, 2021, the government of Canada extended its cruise ship ban. The ban, planned to end on February 28, 2021, has been extended for another year, until February 28, 2022, meaning popular cruising itineraries like the St. Lawrence River and the Maritime Provinces will not be taking place this year. Unfortunately, due to US maritime rules and geographical proximity, the ban will also impact Alaska.

The Canadian minister of transport, Omar Alghabra, officially banned pleasure crafts in its Arctic waters, and cruise vessels carrying over 100 passengers in all Canadian waters. There are no bans, however, on smaller cruise ships carrying under 100 people.

Alaska, a popular cruising destination, is expected to be hit hard by the extension. Unless flying a US flag, cruise vessels can’t simply transport passengers directly from one US port to another, and must also stop in a foreign port. Since many cruise ships are registered internationally (like Carnival registered in Panama and Holland American registered in the Netherlands), ports on the western Canadian coast serve as a needed legal stop for cruise ships departing from the US. With the extension of the ban, cruises that typically depart from the US to reach Alaska won’t be able to operate at all.

Unsurprisingly, Alaska isn’t happy about it. A congressional delegation from Alaska released a statement saying, “Canada’s announcement to ban all cruise sailings carrying 100 people or more traveling 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.”

According to Alghabra, “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.”

Alghabra also noted that the cruise ship ban could end sooner if the public health situation significantly improves.