Alaska Senators Propose Passenger Vessel Services Act Waiver to Save State’s Cruise Tourism

Mike Schuler
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March 8, 2021

Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) have introduced legislation to help the Alaskan tourism industry by providing a waiver of Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between Washington and Alaska.

The proposed Alaska Tourism Recovery Act will allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring that they stop in Canada, as the U.S. law normally would require.

Canada in early February issued an Interim Order extending the March 2020-implemented prohibition on cruise ships from navigating, mooring, anchoring or berthing in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022, effectively suspending Alaskan cruises in the process.

Under the Passenger Vessel Service Act of 1886, foreign-flagged passenger vessels carrying more than 100 people can operate between American ports, but they must include a stop at a foreign destination. For Alaska-bound cruise ships departing from Washington State, this means a stopover in Canada.

“Canada’s recent decision to prohibit Alaska-bound cruise ships from operating in Canadian waters creates legal hurdles that will hamstring the Alaska cruise season, creating additional economic strain on Alaska’s entire economy, especially in our Southeast communities, Alaskan communities are already facing severe economic hardship and uncertainty from missing one tourism season as a result of COVID-19,” said Senator Murkowski.

“Missing another cruise season would only compound the economic fallout that has been devastating for so many families,” Murkowski added.

“As a delegation, when we first heard this announcement by the Canadians, we committed to pursuing all means available, including legislation, to save this tourism season. Today, we’re making good on that promise with a bill that would temporarily waive the federal requirement for foreign-flagged cruise ships to stop at a Canadian port when traveling to Alaska from the Lower 48,” said Senator Sullivan.

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