Cruise-ship season delayed to July 1

The start of the cruise-ship season has been officially postponed to July 1 because of concern about the COVID-19 virus.

Transport Canada said the deferral applies to all cruise ships that have a capacity to carry more than 500 passengers and crew. That would encompass almost all of the cruise ships that come to Victoria’s Ogden Point.

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The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said it respects the decision by the federal government to put the health and safety of Canadians first.

“The decision taken by the government, we fully support,” harbour authority CEO Ian Robertson said. “That said, this will have a significant economic impact upon Victoria, with Victoria being Canada’s busiest cruise ship port-of-call.”

About 300 ship arrivals, with about 800,000 passengers, had been scheduled for the 2020 season, which runs from April to October.

The decision to postpone the cruise season until July 1 affects about 120 ship visits to Ogden Point

Robertson said the cruise-ship season provides about 1,000 local jobs and injects about $130 million into Victoria’s economy, with many small businesses, artisans, entertainers and tour guides counting on tourists from cruise ships.

“The effect is broad and, unfortunately, the effect is going to be on small business,” he said.

A cruise industry trade association said it respects the decision to suspend ship dockings but is disappointed by the length of the delay and is asking the Canadian government to reconsider. It noted that the industry in the U.S. has voluntarily suspended operations for 30 days.

“We are particularly concerned about the impacts on our community partners in Canada, where 23,000 jobs depend on the robust cruise industry,” said a statement from the Cruise Lines International Association, North West and Canada. Communities affected include Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Prince Rupert, Quebec City, St. John’s, N.L., St. John, N.B., Halifax, Sydney, N.S., and Charlottetown.

The cruise industry has taken steps to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as imposing boarding restrictions, the association said.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief public health officer, had been calling for the cruise-ship season to be delayed, along with other travel, because of worries about the COVID-19 virus spreading.

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