Backgrounder: Updated COVID-19 measures for cruise ships and other passenger vessels

Background

Transport Canada is updating its measures for cruise ships and smaller passenger vessels to ensure the safety and security of passengers and crew onboard vessels in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. This builds on previous announcements for cruise ships and other commercial passenger vessels.

New measures for passenger vessels operating in non-Arctic Canadian waters

Transport Canada is extending its safety measures for cruise ships to help mitigate the risk of spreading COVID 19. On May 29, the Minister of Transport announced new measures for passenger vessels operating in Canadian waters:

  • Cruise ships with overnight accommodations allowed to carry more than 100 persons are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020.
  • As of July 1, 2020, all other passenger vessels must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements for timelines and processes to resume operations.

Essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, should continue to operate using mitigation measures. These could include reducing the number of passengers or using alternative practices such as keeping people in their vehicles, when safe to do so, or enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Measures for passenger vessels in Canada’s Arctic waters

Given the ongoing vulnerabilities of Canada’s North, passenger vessels with the capacity to carry more than 12 persons continue to be prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters (including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast) until October 31, 2020.

Beginning July 1, 2020, passenger vessels will be allowed to operate in inland rivers and lakes in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.

Penalties

Enforcement actions for failing to abide by the measures could include administrative monetary penalties of up to $5,000 per day for an individual and $25,000 per day for a vessel or corporation, as well as criminal sanctions, which include up to $1 million in fines and/or up to 18 months' imprisonment.

Marine measures at-a-glance

Type of vessel Measures or restrictions Dates

Cruise ships (allowed to carry more than 100 passengers and crew with overnight accommodations)Footnote *

Prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.

Until October 31

Smaller cruise ships (100 or less passengers and crew with overnight accommodations) in non-Arctic Canadian waters

Allowed to resume operations but must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements.

Note: Previous measures expire on June 30.

From July 1 until further notice

Day cruise ships and passenger vessels capable of carrying more than 12 passengers – no overnight accommodation
(e.g., travel for tourism, recreation, etc.) in non-Arctic Canadian waters

Allowed to resume operations but must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements.Footnote **

Note: Previous measures expire on June 30.

From July 1 until further notice

Ferries and essential passenger vessel operators

Must conduct half-load voyages to support the two-metre physical distancing rule;

OR

Implement alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, such as keeping people in their vehicles, when safe to do so, or enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

Until further notice

Pleasure craft in non-Arctic coastal waters, south of the 60th parallel (e.g. fishing, pleasure power boating, sailing, and paddling)

Must follow the guidance of local health authorities.

Until further notice

Vessels capable of carrying more than 12 passengers and pleasure craft within Canada’s Arctic coastal waters

Prohibited from operating within Canada’s Arctic coastal waters (north of the 60th parallel), as well as in the coastal areas of northern Quebec and Labrador except for local community use.Footnote ***

October 31

Foreign passenger vessels seeking to enter Canadian Arctic waters (right of innocent passage)

Must give the Minister of Transport 60 days’ notice prior to entering Canadian waters.

October 31

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