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Coronavirus: Large cruise ships banned from Canadian waters until Oct. 31

Coronavirus outbreak: Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October
The cruise-ship season in Canada is all but dead as Ottawa extends a ban on ships in Canadian waters until the end of October. Transportation Minister Marc Garneau says passenger ships with overnight accommodations for more than 100 passengers can't operate in Canadian waters until at least Oct. 31.

Overnight passenger vessels that carry more than 100 people — like cruise ships — are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until at least Oct. 31, the federal transport minister announced on Friday.

The extended measures are an update to strict regulations Transport Canada implemented on marine transportation earlier this spring as the novel coronavirus spread globally.

Coronavirus: The future of travel
Coronavirus: The future of travel

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the 100-person capacity requirement in the updated measures applies to passengers and crew.

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However, passenger ships that can hold more than 12 people will remain banned from entering Arctic coastal waters until at least Oct. 31, Garneau said.

B.C. cruise ship season sunk with extension of federal COVID-19 order
B.C. cruise ship season sunk with extension of federal COVID-19 order

Provincial, local authorities to dictate rules for smaller passenger ships

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For all other passenger vessels — including cruise ships with overnight capacity for fewer than 100 people and passenger ships operating in rivers and lakes in the northern territories — the federal government is leaving it up to leaders in lower levels of government to decide the path forward.

“It will be provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements that will determine the timelines and conditions for resuming operations,” he said during a news conference, adding in French that the COVID-19 situation varies by region.

“Ferries, water taxis and other essential passenger vessels can continue to operate with mitigation measures as they do currently,” Garneau added.

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Cruise ship industry looks to restart
Cruise ship industry looks to restart

In mid-March, as the coronavirus spread, Transport Canada deferred the start of the cruise season to July 1 — a restriction that applied to cruise ships with a capacity of more than 500 people.

The department then moved further in early April, banning all passenger vessels certified to carry more than 12 passengers from operating — unless they were ferry vessels or providing “essential services” — in order to curb the spread of the virus.

READ MORE: Commercial vessels, ferries to reduce passenger numbers to avoid coronavirus spread

Garneau said the federal government understands that its restrictions on passenger ships this year will have a big economic impact on the country’s tourism industry and is looking at how to address the repercussions.

“COVID-19 is still a very serious threat, but with the right plan and with the right investments, we will weather this storm together,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday as he provided an update on Canada’s COVID-19 response.

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In 2019, more than two million visitors came into Canadian ports on 140 cruise ships.

The transport minister said the federal government continues to encourage Canadians to limit non-essential travel “for the time being.”

—With files from the Canadian Press