SAINT JOHN --
Another year of no cruise ship traffic comes as no surprise to officials at Maritime ports of entry or local business owners who depend on international passengers. With the federal government extending a ban on cruise ships entering Canadian waters until at least Feb. 28, 2022, things won’t be the same for long while.
The new ban is for any commercial cruise ship carrying more than 100 passengers; it expands on an order issued in mid-March 2020, barring ships with more than 500 passengers.
Gaye Ann Walsh, who operates a business in uptown Saint John near the city’s cruise ship terminal, says 2020 was difficult for her shop, and she doesn’t expect 2021 to be any different. Still, she believes banning cruise ships for another year is the right decision.
“What’s going through my mind first and foremost, is our safety,” says Walsh. “I think, for our safety and our country’s safety, we need to shut down international travel.”
Port of Saint John CEO Jim Quinn says the federal government’s decision has been anticipated for some time.
“I don’t believe they had any other choice,” says Quinn. “It’s all about public safety.”
Halifax Port Authority spokesperson Lane Farguson says the ban was expected in Halifax too.
“Certainly, we understand the reasons for it,” he says.
Both port authorities say their daily activities are diversified enough to handle another year of no cruise ship traffic.
“Thankfully for us, cargo is the main line of business and the cargo industry right now in Halifax is very, very strong,” says Farguson.
Quinn says the Port of Saint John developed its budget for 2021 with a cruise ship ban in mind. “We’re a busy port in other sectors,” he says.
The Halifax Port Authority usually welcomes an average of 175 cruise vessels each year, with approximately 300,000 cruise ship passengers on board. Prior to the pandemic, Saint John was predicting a record-breaking year in 2020, with more than 200,000 tourists expected.
The loss of those passengers is impacting several facets of the tourism industry.
In January, NovaScotian Crystal said it was shutting down, in part, due to a lack of cruise ship passengers on the Halifax waterfront.
Meanwhile, Walsh says local customers will be her only hope of surviving another year in Saint John without cruise ships docking nearby.
“If they want to support us, we will survive,” says Walsh. “If they don’t, we won’t. So every dollar that comes out of a local pocket has to go local, or you’ll have nothing local.”