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Legislation introduced in US Senate to help Alaska cruise season; Would provide PVSA fix for cruise ships

Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN



March 07, 2021
Sunday PM

(SitNews) Washington, D.C. - Friday, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska) introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act to alleviate the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

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This legislation will allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring that they stop in Canada, as U.S. law normally would require.  Canada’s Interim Order No. 5 Respecting Passenger Vessel Restrictions Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) prohibits cruise ships from navigating, mooring, anchoring or berthing in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022 or until the Canadian Government lifts the prohibition. 

U.S. Congressman Don Young (R-AK) recently introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives to provide a fix to the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships.

There is often confusion between the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA).

The Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) is the section of the U.S. Code (46 U.S. Code Section 5103) that covers cruise ship passengers in the context of transporting them between two U.S. ports. With very few exceptions, passengers traveling between U.S. ports (such as Washington to Alaska ports) must do so on ships that were built in the U.S., are owned by U.S. companies and that adhere to the strict U.S. Coast Guard regulations and to be registered (flagged) in the United States.

The Jones Act (officially 46 U.S. Code Section 55102) was enacted in 1920 as part of the Merchant Marine Act with the intent of building and maintaining a secure merchant marine fleet. The law regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports.

“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. We have seen double-digit employment declines in Southeast and a more than 30 percent drop in revenue statewide. Missing another cruise season would only compound the economic fallout that has been devastating for so many families,” said Senator Murkowski.  

Murkowski said, “By providing this technical fix to the PVSA for Alaska-bound cruise ships from the State of Washington, we are taking significant steps towards safely resuming cruise ship activity and economic certainty at a time when Alaskans need it most.” 

“Canada’s recent decision to close its ports to passenger vessels for another year has dire implications for Alaska’s tourism industry and the hundreds of small businesses and tens of thousands of hard-working Alaskans who support it,” said Senator Sullivan.

Sullivan said, “These Alaskans have already had to grapple with a lost season last year due to COVID-19. They simply can’t afford to weather another season without the tremendous economic activity that cruise ships provide to our coastal communities."

"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 Sullivan.

Sullivan concluded saying, "We’re continuing to pursue our multiple pronged approach to tackle this issue, by working closely with the Canadian government, our own CDC and Administration officials, and local Alaska leaders to address any other hurdles that could cause a delay in the 2021 tourism season.”

If the proposed legislation is enacted by Congress, restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska will be alleviated at least temporarily.

Previously in addressing this concern:

  • On February 13, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Young penned a letter to Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, urging him to work with the Alaska Congressional Delegation on COVID-19 travel restrictions in an effort to limit the negative impacts to Alaskan and Canadian constituents. 
  • In October 2020, in an effort to address US-Canada border crossing issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Murkowski, Sullivan, Congressman Young, and Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise specific issues severely impacting Alaskans due to border crossing restrictions due to COVID-1. In their letter, the Alaska Delegation highlighted specific, persisting challenges impacting the health and safety of Alaskans and proposed reasonable solutions.


On the Web:

Read the bill (pdf)

Alaska Tourism Recovery Act Would Provide a Temporary Fix Allowing the 2021 Cruise Season to Safely Commence
SitNews - February 28, 2021


Source of News:

Office of US Senator Lisa Murkowski

Office of US Senator Dan Sullivan

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