Cruise ships to skip BC this year, but Alaskan cruises still a possibility

Cruises to skip Vancouver

Cruise ships will not visit B.C. ports this year, which will have a significant impact on the local economy.

The Port of Vancouver is Canada's largest port. Typically, it welcomes over 800,000 cruise passengers annually.

"The Vancouver cruise industry is a key contributor to the local economy, stimulating $3.17 million in direct economic activity for each ship that calls at Canada Place, and $2.2 billion of total economic impact," the Port of Vancouver said in an emailed statement.

In February, Transport Canada stated that cruise vessels carrying over 100 passengers will not be able to enter Canadian waters in 2021.

Alaskan cruises comprise the lion's share of cruises that visit Vancouver, with several different cruise lines visiting stops in B.C.

But Alaskan cruises may go forward this year without visiting Vancouver.

Currently, the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act prohibits foreign ships from transporting passengers between two different U.S. ports on any vessel other than a U.S.-flag vessel.

"As a general rule, a foreign-flag vessel like Carnival’s vessels may transport passengers on round-trip voyages originating in the United States if the vessel stops at a nearby foreign port during the course of its voyage," explains Carnival Cruises.

Virtually all the ships on the Alaska tourism run are foreign-flagged, so they have to stop at a B.C. port.

However, this month, Alaska’s congressional delegation introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, which would change the law to allow the ships to skip the Canadian stops.

The protectionist clause in the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act — known as the Jones Act — is 101 years old and considered by some to be an archaic leftover.

The proposal comes weeks after frustrated U.S. politicians penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau imploring him to relax restrictions on foreign travel. In it, they comment that the ban on cruises was made without consulting Alaska. They add that losing access to the Canadian port creates "significant disruptions" to the state's cruising season, which will put over 20,000 jobs at risk.

The Government of Canada will continue to evaluate the situation and make changes as necessary to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians. Should the COVID-19 pandemic sufficiently improve to allow the resumption of these activities, the Minister of Transport has the ability to rescind the Interim Orders.

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