GVHA estimates multimillion-dollar loss due to federal cruise ship ban
VICTORIA -- The federal government has temporarily barred all cruise ships and ferries that carry more than 500 people, including crew, from docking in Canada until July to protect against the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a public address Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that "cruise season is suspended until July."
Transport Minister Marc Garneau says that the government will re-examine the ban after June 30.
Currently, the government is still allowing smaller cruise ships and ferries to dock in Canadian waters and is enacting specific precautions to monitor passengers that disembark.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) says that it respects the government's decision to prioritize public safety, and asks that Victorians continue to support the local business community.
"We respect the decision by the Government of Canada in putting health and safety of Canadians first," said the GVHA in a statement Friday. "We will work to engage with our cruise partners and terminal operators to comply with the decision."
"In dealing with the impact of COVID-19, the health and safety of everyone is always our top concern. While this will have a negative economic impact on our organization and numerous small businesses and operators in Greater Victoria, we ask that Victorians continue to support dialogue, collaboration, and community through these unprecedented times."
The GVHA adds that it is in communication with Transport Canada and other ports and agencies across the country.
On Friday, GVHA CEO Ian Robertson said that this year’s cruise ship season was estimated to bring 65 to 70-million dollars to the local economy.
At this time, the organization says the new ban will be challenging for local workers, but that the city is capable of rebounding in the future.
“I think about the pedicab drivers, the local artists on the piers, the bus drivers,” he said. “Unfortunately, the effect is going to be on small business.”
However, the GVHA CEO added, “We will get through this.”
As Transport Canada’s cruise ship ban does not bar vessels that carry less than 500 passengers and crew, Robertson said that the harbour authority is looking into possibly attracting more ships of this size.
He noted that cruise schedules are usually set one or two years in advance, however, so it is currently unknown how many smaller ships may redirect to Victoria this season.
The organization says it will continue to provide real-time information on the situation and expects the 2020 cruise schedule to receive several updates throughout the year.
Meanwhile, the federal government is looking at restricting where international flights are able to land in the country. While an official list has not been determined yet, the government plans to direct overseas flights to a small number of specific airports.
The announcement comes Friday morning, the same day that Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, advised against all non-essential travel outside of the country, including to the United States.
On Thursday, B.C.'s top health officials also discouraged travel outside of Canada, and banned large gatherings of more than 250 people in the province.
Canada's temporary suspension of cruise ships comes one day after the City of Victoria asked the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority to delay the cruise ship season entirely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Victoria's 2020 cruise ship season was expected to begin on April 3, with arrivals scheduled until the end of October.
In 2019, the city saw more than one million cruise ship passengers and crew members disembark over the course of more than 250 port stops.