Tensions seemed to have spiked in Canada since the wife of Prime Minister Trudeau tested positive for the novel coronavirus. One consequence is the Alaska cruise industry. Canada is refusing to let large vessels with more than 500 passengers dock at its ports.
Ordinarily this might not seem like an issue. Most boats depart from Seattle. Alaska is also part of the United States, and its border extends in a narrow strip down much of the Pacific coast. You could easily imagine a cruise that travels between the two without visiting Canada.
Except that most cruise ships don’t fly an American flag. When an international vessel provides what is essentially domestic travel between two ports of another country, that is called cabotage. Cruise ships are required to make a stop in Canada — usually Vancouver or Victoria — in order to comply with international law.
This is similar in some ways to fifth freedom flights. A carrier like Cathay Pacific is allowed to fly from Vancouver to New York but only because it’s a continuation of a flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver. And an important element of fifth freedom flights is that they occur between two different countries, neither of which is the home country of the plane’s operator. A flight from Los Angeles to New York, even as a continuation of another flight, would be prohibited.
I imagine this is going to hit the cruise industry hard, but also the communities that rely on cruises to support local economies in the summer season. I’ve been to Anchorage in the winter; it’s eerily quiet. Seattle is already struggling for a host of other reasons directly related to COVID-19. Canadian cities like Victoria will be hurt, too. Delaying the cruise season to July (or perhaps even canceling it entirely in 2020) is not going to be pleasant.