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Capital Letters: Cruise ships return after two-year hiatus

Will they be welcome in Victoria? Readers weigh in on the ships’ return

In your words
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Capital Letters: Cruise ships return after two-year hiatus

Will they be welcome in Victoria? Readers weigh in on the ships’ return

James MacDonald / Capital Daily
James MacDonald / Capital Daily
In your words
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Capital Letters: Cruise ships return after two-year hiatus

Will they be welcome in Victoria? Readers weigh in on the ships’ return

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Capital Letters: Cruise ships return after two-year hiatus
James MacDonald / Capital Daily

On Saturday, the 930-passenger Viking Orion will mark the second cruise ship to arrive at Victoria’s Ogden Point since the COVID-19 pandemic scuppered the tourism industry in 2020, putting a two-year pause on cruise travel and casting the city’s future as a stopover into doubt.

The cruise industry has proven contentious in the Capital Region, where the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority expects a record number of visitors in 2022. The GVHA’s schedule calls for 358 ships carrying roughly 780,000 passengers to arrive between now and November—a boon to the restaurants, pedicabs, and tourist shops that have been decimated by the drop in visitors during normally busy months, but a cause for concern for the neighbours and environmentalists who worry about the pollutant effects of an industry that emitted an estimated 11,406 tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalents in Victoria’s last full cruise season in 2019. 

We asked Capital Daily readers what you thought about cruise ships returning to Victoria, and our inbox replies could have filled a small vessel of its own. Below, we've printed a few representative samples.

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Ogden Point a dumping place

[For] two COVID years, we had the benefit of clean air and the natural cleansing of our harbour waters. For those of you who regularly walk the Breakwater, the difference became apparent when schools of fish, otters, seals, herons, and starfish became regular sightings again.

Sadly, with the arrival of the first cruise ship recently, all that is going to change again. The engine scrubbing, pollution of garbage, [and] unclean air is what we will have to deal with, like it or not. Ogden Point has just become a dumping place again.

According to JBNA [James Bay Neigbourhood Association], the average ship time in port for passengers to spend in our fair city leaves many of them [with] only 2-3 hours (if they want to visit at all), considering the disembark and re-embark time is one hour on each end.

How is that going to give these people time to spend money in Victoria? How is that going to financially benefit us Victorians?

Ada Serson, James Bay

Ships’ noise can be heard all over James Bay

Many James Bay residents dread the return of cruise ships. Close to a million people in 6 months descending on our small neighbourhood has a hugely negative impact for many, and provides few benefits.

Cruise ships dump tons of garbage into our sensitive marine environment, and spew huge amounts of pollutants from their engines impacting our air, sea, and land. They run their engines while docked, often for many hours. Pollutants from fleets of vehicles running tours for cruise ship patrons from Ogden Point add to the pollution (helicopters, diesel buses, cars). This is damaging our environment, us, pets, animals, birds, insects, and gardens (especially vegetable gardens). Have you noticed the beautiful sea blue/green of our ocean these days as it has had 2 years without all the pollution from large ships? It is noticeably healthier.

Noise from cruise ships is incredible. Ship operators use extremely loud PA systems to announce arrival and departure information, and blow horns before departure (many times when a passenger is late). It can be heard all over James Bay, [and it] often happens after 10pm. Helicopters fly back and forth to drop off pilot captains and take tourists on flights. Tour buses with loud diesel engines rumble along neighbourhood streets. Open, double-decker buses with loudspeakers blare recorded spiels at full volume and have engines that rattle our windows. Pedi-cab drivers yell non-stop up and down our streets as they entertain passengers. Often 2 or 3 pedicabs travel together with 8 partying people yelling and laughing, as late as 11:30pm and as early as 6:30am. Horse cart drivers have microphones for their spiels. For 6 months of the year, we do not have quiet enjoyment of our homes or our neighbourhood.

Val French

Cruise ships no worse than other forms of motor transportation

It just so happens that I was on the Koningsdam as it made its newsworthy way into Ogden Point on April 9. Now, after disembarking in Vancouver, I’m on the ferry back to the Island and home. 

The ship did everything to make our cruise safe and stress-free. This ship only accepted fully-vaccinated guests who had taken and documented a COVID test 2 days prior to boarding. The entire staff wore masks at all times and guests were also masked when walking from place to place. Everything was kept spotless. I felt very safe…safer than I feel on the ferry, surrounded by maskless passengers. 

And I must say, although I did not really witness any crowds greeting us enthusiastically, we were treated to the protesters’ complaints about how ashamed we should all be. To those I say, cruise ships carrying 2,000 passengers probably do not impact the environment more than 2,000 individuals travelling in their 2,000 vehicles. [Editor's note: We looked into the carbon footprint of cruise ships in the 2019 season and found a single ship's emissions ranged from 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent to more than 1,500 tonnes.] The ship itself has an amazing system which processes its waste before restricted dumping is done. Probably less environmentally harmful than an average sewage system from a city such as Victoria, for instance.

Roberta Ling

Time for BC to move away from unsustainable industry

It's stupid to invite cruse ships back to Victoria. 

Sorry, I know closing our port to them has an impact on some tourist-oriented businesses downtown, but we're asking Albertans to get away from the oil industry in the name of saving the planet, and we should do the same re: cruises: BIG WASTEFUL POLLUTING SPREADERS OF DISEASE. Enough already!!!!!

Jeanette Morris

Ships an enclosed environment

In my opinion, enclosed spaces such as [cruise] ships, trains, buses, [and] planes are all subject to possibly serious outbreaks whether it be as simple as the flu or a cold or more serious as in COVID.

I feel many of us are somewhat like sheep; the talking heads tell us to cover up, get vaccinated, stay inside, be safe one day and then, voila, we are told all is clear the next. I realize those talking heads, being mere mortals themselves, don't really know how to deal with the exigencies of everyday life with COVID.

What I suggest is we all use common sense in the wake of these changing times. Don't necessarily follow the protocol of the day. Let's use our heads, people, and decide for ourselves the best plan of action.

Kathleen Zaharuk

Grateful for tourists’ return

Really pleased all things tourism [are beginning] the comeback. [It is] some of our life blood.

I suggest complaints could come from many of us for various inconveniencing reasons; however, living in the downtown bubble of Victoria—I'm in Fairfield on Dallas—is part of experiencing this seasonal tourism, which we do depend on economically.

I'd rather be thankful than complain.

Nancy S.

Pollution a ‘frightening’ concern

Why do the City and the Province, both promoting themselves as "green" and environmentally conscious, allow, and even promote, this polluting, low-economic-value form of tourism?

Greenhouse gas pollution from the massive cruise ships that come into Victoria has been well documented and, especially given what we now know about the world's environmental crisis, it is frightening. Shore power from hydroelectricity would minimize this, but even ships that use such power will still run their engines as they manoeuvre into Victoria's little harbour to dock within metres of people's homes, then again as they exit, and during the time periods they need to power up and down. Most cruise ships won't be shore power-capable until about 2030 in any case. In the meantime, pollution from these ships is increasing and will continue to fill the skies in and around Victoria.

Jennifer Button

Summers without cruise ships were ‘wonderful’

In the past, fumes from the cruise ships that overshadow the wee community of James Bay have been very bad. The toxicity depends on how hard and from what direction the wind is blowing, as well as which ship is in port. I'll never forget the year a gardener, who came to work at my home when the fumes were blowing, said to me, "No one should have to live with this." 

Sometimes I think that the only "green" that matters to the politicians of Victoria is the green that they imagine on the back of a tourist dollar. But studies I have seen demonstrate that the benefit to Victoria of cruise ships is not great, while the toll on James Bay is significant. There is not only the pollution, but also speeding taxis, traffic disruption, and noise. And there is also the problem of the grey water that the ships spill into our oceans, and more.

The two summers without cruise ships were wonderful for me, and for many of us in James Bay who dread their return. I enjoyed sitting out in my front garden again. I was able to mow my lawn at a convenient time, not having to time it around the cruise ship schedule. I did not need to worry about the acrid fumes harming the nesting birds and squirrels. I kept my windows open.

I can't imagine what it would have been like during the heat bomb of 2021, when no winds were blowing and the air was trapped in a bubble over the city, to have had the cruise ships in port spewing out their fumes and pollutants. I was thanking God there were no ships in the docks. The fumes would have been locked in over James Bay and grown to a very dangerous density. I, for one, am hoping that the requirements for ships to stop in at Victoria will be lifted, so life can return to normal for us, and also for the wildlife in our community.

Ruth Magnusson

We also asked what you thought last year, when the ships’ return was further off. Then, the response was also more anti- than pro-, but there was more enthusiasm for the business aspect and some of the opposition was about ships returning too soon more so than returning at all. You can read those 2021 letters here.

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Capital Letters: Cruise ships return after two-year hiatus
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