Congressman Don Young of Alaska has introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act to enact a cruise ship workaround for closed Canada ports.
Canada’s decision to close its ports to cruise ships has devastated Alaska’s coastal communities, and has caused uncertainty for small business owners and the broader tourism economy, Young wrote.
“If cruises can safely proceed – and I believe they can – then we ought to be doing everything possible to alleviate the stress and anxiety of families whose livelihoods depend on tourists coming to Alaska to experience our great state. Vaccinations continue to ramp up, and daily cases are on the decline. By the time the 2021 cruise season typically starts, I am confident that we will be in a strong position to allow cruises to resume with proper safeguards in place,” Young wrote.
Under current law, the Passenger Vessel Services Act requires cruise ships to make a foreign stop in between domestic port stops. Canada’s decision to close its waters cancels the 2021 cruise season, if a solution cannot be found.
Young’s bill provides a temporary fix by designating roundtrip cruises as foreign voyages, creating a workaround for the the Passenger Vessel Services Act.
“Communities such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Cordova, Whittier, and countless others are already suffering from the recession caused by the pandemic. All Alaskans are asking for is the opportunity to open their doors and make an honest living this summer, and we must give them a fighting chance,” Young said.
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has also sent a letter to Canadian Ambassador Kirsten Hillman encouraging the government of Canada and the U.S. to “find a mutually agreeable solution.” The committee proposed permitting stops in Canada without disembarking passengers, something known as a “technical call,” which would meet the requirements of the law.
“It is our hope that this solution would both address the important health concerns of Canadian authorities and allow cruises to resume with the approval of the U.S. Government authorities when it is deemed safe to do so,” the committee members wrote to Ambassador Hillman.
Quick action will be required to save enough of the 2021 cruise season, and it is estimated to take 90 days for the industry to put ships back into service that have been in layup status.