Murkowski calls for permanent waiver of law requiring cruise ships to Alaska to stop in Canada

Through Elwood Brehmer, Alaska Trade Journal

Updated: 5 hours ago Posted: 8 hours ago

Senator Lisa Murkowski is trying to make permanent a temporary, pandemic, exemption from long-standing federal maritime laws for Alaska cruises.

The Senior Alaska Senator submitted the Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act to the United States Senate on September 23 to end the historic requirement that cruises to Alaska embark from ports on the west coast of the states United also stop at a foreign port en route to the north.

The legislation builds on and would strengthen the 2021 exemption only from the Passenger Ship Services Act that was passed in late May, which reduced the cruise season in Southeast Alaska this year. year.

Last spring, the Alaska Congressional delegation successfully propelled the current Congressional temporary exemption over to President Joe Biden’s office, via Rep. Don Young’s Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, reaffirming the trio’s collective influence. at the Capitol.

For large cruise ships to call in Alaska this year, the exemption was necessary as Canadian transportation officials announced in February that they would not allow ships to dock at ports across the country again in 2021 after also have banned cruise ships in 2020, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The 19th century PVSA required foreign-built, crewed, or flagged passenger ships sailing between US ports to make at least one stopover in a foreign port; an attempt to support the country’s shipbuilding and maritime industries.

The effect of modern times has been for cruise lines to use a Canadian port, most often Vancouver, as a point of departure or as a stop en route for travel to Alaska to comply. The pandemic blockade for international cruise lines and the plethora of tourism businesses in Alaska – from fishing charters in Ketchikan to the Alaska Railroad to gift shops in Fairbanks – that depend on cruise lines is no US shipyard. does build large cruise ships. All of the major cruise ships currently in service were built elsewhere.

Murkowski said in a statement from his office that the new legislation ensures that PVSA will no longer interfere with Alaska’s tourism industry without allowing foreign-built ships to compete with the domestic industry. That’s because the Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act includes a provision that would reinstate the overseas stop requirement for overseas-built ships if a large U.S.-built cruise ship were to enter service.

“While the PVSA still fulfills its role in Lower 48, it unwittingly put many Alaska businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government when Canada closed its borders, including ports,” Murkowski said. “The inability of cruises to get to Alaska has almost wiped out our economies in the Southeast; communities like Skagway, for example, have seen their business income fall by 80%.

The temporary exemption adopted in late May gave cruise lines time to begin limited cruises in July. Overall, this year’s cruise season in the Southeast was about 10% of normal, according to a report commissioned by the Southeast Conference, a regional community development nonprofit.

The Alaska cruise industry peaked in 2019 when about 1.3 million tourists – more than half of all visitors to the state that year – arrived by cruise ship.

Last year, the region lost around 45% of the nearly 8,400 tourism-dependent jobs it had in 2019, mainly due to the lack of cruise ships.

Delegation staff said they would expect a permanent exemption from Alaskan cruises to PVSA to garner similar support to that received by the temporary exemption.

Murkowski’s bill is expected to first be heard by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation chaired by Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell, who worked closely with Murkowski for years when they led the energy and natural resources committee of their respective parties.

Cantwell supported the temporary exemption, noting at the time that the loss of the Alaskan cruise season in 2020 cost Seattle about 5,500 jobs and $ 900 million in potential economic activity.

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