Allow Technical Cruise Stops in CAN or Lose Billions: Industry Advocates

Crystal Serenity in the Port of Vancouver. Photo credit: Unsplash.
Crystal Serenity in the Port of Vancouver. Photo credit: Unsplash.

If Ottawa doesn’t permit cruise ships to make at least technical stops in Canada this year while cruising is banned, we could permanently lose billions of dollars of cruise ship business.

That’s the argument industry associations are making to the federal government. ACTA has joined the advocacy efforts of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia (TIABC) and the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) in strongly urging Ottawa to protect the infrastructure and future of cruising on both Canada’s West and East coasts.

As Open Jaw has reported, when Ottawa extended its ban on cruising in Canadian waters until 2022, it effectively shut down the 2021 Alaska and Canada & New England cruise season entirely. A piece of the American Jones Act – the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act – prohibits foreign-flagged ships from sailing exclusively American itineraries. Until the Canadian ban, cruise ships got around that law by including Canadian ports. Without Canadian ports, the cruises can’t legally operate.

In a desperate effort to salvage the Alaska cruise season, lawmakers from that state have introduced legislation, including the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, which, if passed, would allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring a stop in Canada.

While the talk right now is that such a change would only last while the Canadian government’s cruise ban is in place, Canada’s travel industry fears the workaround could easily become permanent, leaving Canadian ports out in the cold. Not to mention the growing cruise drive market many Canadian advisors capitalize on, selling Canadian-embarking cruises to Canadian travellers.

One alternative workaround that’s been proposed in the U.S. is a ‘technical’ stop in Canada. No pax embark or disembark from the ship, which advocates say would be a win-win-win solution. It would satisfy current U.S. legislation, protect Canadians from any risk of the spread of COVID, while also maintaining a Canadian port call. Advocates urge Canada’s federal government to facilitate that temporary solution in 2021.

“It keeps port operations continuing and will allow for a more expeditious start when the cruise ban order is lifted,” ACTA president Wendy Paradis explains.

“If cruise ships are no longer required to call at Canadian ports, this may have a long term and devastating impact on the B.C. economy and the Canadian travel industry,” including losses to travel agencies, travel agents and independent travel agents, she says.

A Lot to Lose

ACTA reports that losing West and East coast cruising would cost Canada over $4 billion in direct and indirect economic benefits. In 2019, cruising brought B.C. alone $2.72 billion and 17,384 jobs.

The organization says it’s recently discussed the economic impact of cruising – and potential consequences of an American workaround becoming permanent – with B.C. MP Tako Van Popta, who directed related questions to the Minister of Transport during the March 9, 2021 Question Period in the House of Commons.

“This is another important issue that underscores the urgent need for the governments to start working with industry on a roadmap to recovery that will protect jobs and the Canadian travel industry infrastructure,” said Paradis.

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