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.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the 100-person capacity requirement in the updated measures applies to passengers and crew.
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.
Provincial, local authorities to dictate rules for smaller passenger ships
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.
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.
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.
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