S. JOHN'S, N.L.— Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced on Friday that all cruise ships with over 500 passengers and crew won't be able to stop in Canada until at least July 1.
Amidst a federal government warning to avoid cruise travel, and the first cruise ship scheduled to visit St. John’s on May 1, the St. John’s Port Authority (SJPA) has issued a statement detailing steps it’s taking to ensure the safety of people in the city.
The port authority said any foreign flagged vessels with passengers showing symptoms of COVID-19 are to advise Transportation Canada Marine Safety and Security, who will then advise Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) officials.
If the PHAC, in communication with the ship, determines a passenger is at risk, then others – such as the SJPA – will be notified.
If the vessel is granted permission to enter the port by regulatory authorities, then the port authority says it will enact its own emergency response plan or applicable protocols in co-ordination with the PHAC and Transport Canada.
At the municipal level, St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen said the city has regular briefings about COVID-19 with the provincial Department of Health, Eastern Health and the federal government in order to monitor the situation.
Breen said the city will take direction from those three authorities when it comes to cruise ship visits.
“The federal government has the ultimate control who can enter the port – what ships can enter the port. So, that’s something that will be continued to be monitored as we move forward. But we’ve had nothing on that yet,” said Breen.
He said the situation is being monitored “very closely.”
The association that markets the province as a cruise destination, Cruise NL, said it’s not aware of any changes to the 2020 season.
In an emailed statement to The Telegram, the association said it, too, is monitoring the situation. It said the Cruise Line International Association, members of which make up nearly 95 per cent of ocean-going cruise ship capacity worldwide, “have enhanced protocols for ocean-going guests and crew.”
The current cruise ship schedule has 118,613 passengers and crew expected to visit several ports around the province this year.
Thirty-four cruise ships are scheduled to visit St. John’s between May 1 and the end of October.
Coun. Debbie Hanlon, cruise lead on city council, said cancellations of those cruises could have a significant economic impact.
“We get 40 to 50-thousand (cruise) visitors come into our city – it’s going to have an economic impact. Especially if that gets cancelled. That’s a major part of our tourism that we’ve been marketing for years.”
At a news conference earlier this week, the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, said cruise visits are “under discussion.”