Cruise ship industry not a panacea for port cities

Study says industry growth will slow, governments should be realistic about economic expectations
September 25, 2003

(Halifax) A report released by the CCPA today finds that Canadian ports need to take a sober and realistic look at their expectations of the cruise industry. The study finds that, in their rush to embrace the cruise industry, Canadian ports have paid insufficient attention to the costs of development and tended to overestimate income. "Charting a Course: The Cruise Industry, the Government of Canada and Purposeful Development" is the first study to lay out all of the issues that a port city needs to consider in developing cruise ship tourism.

According to the report's author, Ross Klein, (Memorial University) "ports are investing millions in anticipation of a continuing boom in the growth of the cruise industry. But this expectation may not be realistic given the dependence of the industry in Canada on American cabotage laws."

The report examines what is driving the development of the industry, and the assumptions ports use to justify investments in port facilities. According to the report, the major push for investment in cruise tourism comes from the industry, its lobby organizations such as the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association and the consultants hired by ports and government agencies. These organizations have consistently advocated for investment in the industry based on what may be unrealistic expectations, such as continued industry growth, passenger onshore spending, and costs associated with hosting cruise tourism .

Proponents of the industry are in effect "setting up ports, such as Saint John and Halifax, to compete with each other in a bid to get a greater portion of cruise tourism. Such competition," according to Klein, "undermines the ability of ports to negotiate beneficial agreements with the cruise companies. Real overall benefits are only possible through co-operation between ports."

The report also examines Canada's voluntary approach to the regulation of cruise ship discharges into costal waters. "Such an approach is" according to Klein "based on unwarranted trust in the cruise industry and is inconsistent with the experience of other jurisdictions. Recent research by the OECD has also shown the ineffectiveness of a voluntary approach to environmental regulation." The report recommends the immediate cancellation of Transport Canada's plan for voluntary guidelines and calls for the development of "concrete, enforceable regulations that include penalties for non-compliance."

According to Klein, "ports need to take a realistic approach to developing the cruise industry and acknowledge both the real costs and the benefits. Policy makers, says Klein "must look critically at the information provided by cruise industry promoters and make decisions that are in the interest of the local community and the province."