Alaska calls out Canada for extending its cruise ship ban

Feb 9 2021, 8:02 pm

State officials in Alaska are calling Canada out for its decision to extend the ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters, claiming no consideration was given to how the move would affect them.

In a joint statement, US Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young said the ban would prevent Alaska sailings out of Seattle via Canada.

“As the state with the most extensive shared border with Canada, the Alaska Delegation has worked in good faith to seek [a] compromise over border crossing restrictions due to COVID-19, keeping in mind the health and safety of Alaskans and Canadians,” the officials said.

Canada’s decision to extend the ban “without so much as a courtesy conversation with the Alaska Delegation, is not only unexpected—it is unacceptable—and was certainly not a decision made with any consideration for Alaskans or our economy,” they furthered. “We expect more from our Canadian allies.”

The statement noted that following Canada’s announcement, “immediate” efforts were made to reach out to Canadian and American agencies “to try to understand the rationale behind this decision — particularly the duration of the ban.”

And as they wait for answers, state officials said they are “exploring all potential avenues, including changing existing laws, to ensure the cruise industry in Alaska resumes operations as soon as it is safe. We will fight to find a path forward.”

The federal ban on cruise ships in Canada was initially slated to end this month, but will now remain in effect until February 28, 2022.

In announcing the extension, Federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra said “temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft[s] are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems.”

The extension on the ban means cruise vessels carrying 100 or more people are still prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.

As well, “adventure-seeking” pleasure crafts are still prohibited from entering Arctic waters, and passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people are still prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast. However, pleasure crafts used by local Arctic residents will not be affected by these measures.

The government said essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, should continue to follow local public health guidance and protocols, and follow mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future outbreaks.

The measures for cruise ships and pleasure crafts were initially announced on March 19, 2020, and May 30, 2020. This is the third time the ban on cruise ships has been extended since then.

Those who do not comply with the pleasure craft prohibition could be subject to penalties: $5,000 per day for individuals and $25,000 per day for groups or corporations.

And those not complying with the passenger vessel prohibition could be liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to $1 million, or to imprisonment for a term of up to 18 months, or both.

There is no national ban for smaller cruise ships certified to carry 100 or fewer people, the government noted. However, these vessels must still follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority protocols for timelines and processes around their operations.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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