Alaska Congressman Don Young has introduced a bill to amend a 135-year-old shipping law to rescue the 2021 Alaska cruise season.
The move to temporarily amend the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 would allow large cruise ships from Seattle to sail to Alaska without having to stop at a Canadian port, usually Vancouver or Victoria. Canada has closed its waters and ports to ships with more than 100 people onboard through February 2022.
Young’s Alaska Tourism Recovery Act would deem roundtrip voyages between Alaska and Washington State as foreign voyages for the purposes of U.S. law. The CDC’s Conditional Sail Order remains in place, and Young also has called on the Biden Administration to work with the industry to find a path forward toward the safe resumption of cruising.
“This month, Canada’s surprise decision to close their ports shocked Alaska’s communities, and has caused significant uncertainty for our small business owners and the broader tourism economy,” Young said. “Managing the pandemic requires tough choices, and that has never been in question. But 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. The COVID-19 pandemic devastated Alaska’s 2020 cruise season; we must not allow the same to happen to 2021’s season.”
The bill is narrowly tailored to provide targeted relief for large cruise trips to and from Washington State and Alaska. The provisions are temporary and would only apply during the closure of Canadian waters and ports.
Canada’s order to prohibit cruises includes language that the ban could be lifted if the pandemic eases in Canada. The country has had challenges with its vaccine roll-out and just Friday authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine, which, along with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, could speed up vaccinations there, according to the New York Times.
Young and members of the U.S. House Transportation Committee also offered a compromise that would allow foreign-flagged cruise ships to make a short stop at Canadian ports without disembarking any passengers.
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