The federal government will lift its ban on cruise ships and allow the large vessels back into Canadian waters as of Nov. 1.
Canada's Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said at a press conference in Victoria, B.C. Thursday that cruise ships will be able to return to Canadian waters if operators are able to fully comply with public health requirements. However, what those public health requirements will be have not been specified.
The ban on cruise ships had originally been extended to Feb. 28, 2022, but was moved up thanks to Canada's rising vaccination rate and changing public health advice, Alghabra said.
"This means that the cruise ship operators will be able to prepare and be ready for full operations by the start of the 2022 cruise season, if they can fully comply with public health requirements," Alghabra said.
"It also means that our timing will be aligned with our American neighbours."
Cruise ships have been banned from entering Canadian waters since March 2020, a major blow to Canada's $4 billion cruise ship industry that generates approximately 30,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Canada's ban on non-essential travel with the U.S. remains in place. Alghabra says discussions with the U.S. over the land border "are ongoing" but provided no timeline as to when restrictions may be eased.
Many groups welcomed Transport Canada's announcement on Thursday.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, which manages the Victoria Cruise Terminal, says the decision will allow for a full resumption of the cruise season in 2022.
"Cruise lines and ports in Canada need time to prepare for the full resumption of cruise and this news from Transport Canada will signal that the industry is welcomed back for the 2022 cruise season," the organization said in a statement.
"We will increase our focus on major projects such as shore power with the understanding that we, and our partners, have a clearer line of sight on financial forecasts."
Anna Poustie, chair of the Victoria Cruise Industry Alliance, says the decision will help provide stability for businesses in the area.
"The financial impact has been crushing," Poustie said.
"Today, we can put that behind us. Now we know that crews will be welcomed back, our cruise partners know ships will be welcomed back to our ports, and our businesses know that they will be back to work."
Proposed U.S. law raises concerns
While cruise ships will be able to return to Canadian shores, there is concern about a proposed bill in the United States that could impact the industry in Canada if it passed.
U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law legislation that temporarily allows cruise ships to travel directly from Washington state to Alaska without stopping in Canada. U.S. law prohibits cruise ships from travelling between two American ports without stopping at a foreign port.
However, U.S. Senator Mike Lee has introduced legislation to make the temporary workaround permanent by repealing the law which forces cruise ships to stop in Canada. Lee says in a statement that "this arcane law benefits Canada, Mexico and other countries who receive increased maritime traffic at the expense of American workers in our coastal cities, towns and ports."
When asked about Lee's proposed legislation, Alghabra says the government will work to protect the cruise industry in Canada.
"We're committed to working with our friends in the United States to ensure that we maintain business as usual," Alghabra said.
"We're working with the administration, we're working with Congressmen and women on repeating the benefits that the industry gets, not only here in Canada, but in the U.S., by stopping here."
With files from the Associated Press
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.