Thursday,  March 4, 2021  3:29 am

“Unacceptable”: Alaska is angry at Canada for extending cruise ban to 2022


“Unacceptable”: Alaska is angry at Canada for extending cruise ban to 2022
Holland America Line may cancel its Alaska sailings for the 2021 season due to Canada's extended ban on cruise ships.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Three Alaska politicians are lashing out at Canada for extending its ban on cruise ships for another year.

In a strongly-worded release posted on Feb. 5, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young expressed their disapproval of Canada's policy, citing a concern for their constituents.

“As the state with the most extensive shared border with Canada, the Alaska Delegation has worked in good-faith to seek compromise over border crossing restrictions due to COVID-19, keeping in mind the health and safety of Alaskans and Canadians. Canada’s announcement to ban all cruise sailings carrying 100 people or more traveling through Canadian waters, 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.”

“We expect more from our Canadian allies,” the Delegation said. 

Exploring all avenues

Canadian Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra’s order that prohibits large cruise ships from entering Canadian waters until February 28, 2022 took several in the industry by surprise.

Under the order, vessels carrying 100 or more people are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.

Adventure-seeking pleasure craft are also prohibited from entering Arctic waters while passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people are banned from Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast.

READ MORE: Disappointing, harsh, unfair: Industry reacts to Canada’s one-year cruise ban

The decision, inevitably, destroyed any hope of selling itineraries out of Western and Eastern Canada this year.

Cruise ships “pose a risk to our health care systems," says the Government of Canada.

Holland America Line (HAL), for example, has suggested that it may cancel Alaska and Canada/New England itineraries for the 2021 season. 

“Given the unexpected length of the order, it will take us some time to assess whether there are any options to preserve a portion of the 2021 Alaska season," HAL said in a statement to PAX.

Minister Alghabra can rescind his Interim Orders and allow cruising to resume if the COVID-19 pandemic improves, which would possibly recover some itineraries.

READ MORE: Canada extends ban on cruise ships until Feb. 28, 2022

Canada, however, says cruise ships in Canadian waters currently “pose a risk to our health care systems.” 

“The Government of Canada will continue to evaluate the situation and make changes as necessary to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians,” the government said in a statement on Feb. 4.

Those who break the pleasure craft prohibition could be fined up to $5,000 per day and groups or corporations can be liable for fines up to $25,000 per day, the Government of Canada says. 

Breaking the passenger vessel ban can result in fines of up to $1 million or to imprisonment for a term of up to 18 months, or to both, the government said. 

Meanwhile, Alaska is “exploring all potential avenues, including changing existing laws, to ensure the cruise industry in Alaska resumes operations as soon as it is safe,” the three politicians said.

“We will fight to find a path forward.”


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