Minister of Transport Marc Garneau has extended the cruise ship ban until at least Oct. 31, meaning no cruise ships will be arriving in Saint John this season.
In a press conference Friday, Garneau said cruise ships with overnight accommodations and capacity of over 100 people, including passengers and crew, will be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until then. The ban was previously set to expire in July.
Port Saint John CEO Jim Quinn said this ban extension means an end to this year’s season for Saint John.
“[It’s] not totally unexpected,” he said. “We respect … the decisions that the government makes because it’s all about protection of our population.”
Quinn said the port was expecting record-setting cruise revenue in 2020, but COVID-19 restrictions nationally and internationally have already cost the city 80,000 visitors. That’s about half of the expected visitors the cruise ships were set to bring.
There were 51 calls still on the schedule between July 31 and Oct. 27.
“The government has said that cruising will not be taking place in Canada before Oct. 31. So I guess… that means there will be no cruise vessels coming into Saint John this season”
In response to a question about what the federal government is planning to help the tourism sector, Garneau said the minister responsible for tourism, Mélanie Joly would be the best person to answer that question.
“I agree with you there will be a serious impact on the tourism industry, especially for cruise ships,” he said. “This is something that is important for some provinces in our country, unfortunately, because we have decided to minimize risk.”
“There will be economic impacts.”
Quinn said the port is hoping there will be a vaccine by the time next season starts. But it’s still too soon to prepare for a cruise ship season if there is no vaccine by 2021.
“It’s too early for us to contemplate that in terms of doing anything with next season,” he said. “The cruise lines are very focused on doing all of the right things and to ensure that safety procedures and protocols are in place to regain the confidence of of the cruising public and officials and communities that they visit.”
He said next season is a full twelve months away “so a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then.”
He said there are no scheduled Port Saint John layoffs, but the port won’t be hiring the usual seasonal and temporary workers involved with the cruise ship visits.