Senator Lisa Murkowski plans to introduce a bill next week to permanently exempt cruise ships bound for Alaska from an 1800s federal law that requires them to stop in Canada.
Murkowski said the new legislation waived a measure in the Passenger Ship Services Act (PVSA) that requires passenger cruise lines between Lower 48 and Alaska to stop at a foreign port.
Murkowski said the law had the unintended consequences of “putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government,” which banned shutdowns in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The rule applies to ships registered in other countries, which represent the majority of major cruise lines.
Under Murkowski’s temporary legislation, cruise ships to Alaska in 2021 circumvented the rule and resumed travel between Seattle, Washington and Alaska.
“It nearly wiped out the economies of Southeast Alaska as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors, but unable to do so because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stopovers in their ports, “Murkowski told Haines this week. âWe cannot let this happen again. “
Its new legislation, which will be submitted next week, will allow this exemption permanently. The exemption will apply to large foreign-flagged cruise ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers.
The waiver would end once there is a US-built cruise ship that carries more than 1,000 passengers, she said. âWe don’t want to compete with American shipbuilders. This is why this legislation ends once there is a US market.
“Ultimately, we must reform the PVSA so that the ability of Alaskans to engage in trade is not compromised by the government of another country.”
In 2019, more than 1.3 million cruise ship passengers visited Alaska. But the 2020 pandemic brought the cruise industry to a halt and threatened tourism in Alaska.
Tourism in Alaska typically generates more than $ 214 million in government and municipal revenue, $ 1.4 billion in payroll and $ 2.2 billion in tourism spending, Murkowski said. These numbers fell during the pandemic.
Murkowski’s legislation, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA), was enacted this spring as a temporary fix. Now Murkowski is looking for a permanent rule change.
âThe PVSA was designed to benefit American shipbuilders and merchant mariners and to enhance our nation’s readiness in times of conflict,â said Murkowski.
âAlthough the PVSA is still fulfilling its role in Lower 48, it became evident during the Covid-19 pandemic that Alaska needed an exemption due to the closure of its borders by Canada,â a- she declared.
By: Linda F. Hersey
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner