We have some interesting times ahead of us! Michael Bayley, the President and CEO of Royal Caribbean has asked his followers to support a Bill that has been introduced by two U.S. Senators that could put cruises to Alaska back on the table.
This comes after the Canadian Government announced a cruise ban for one year through February 2022. It came as a surprise and disappointment to many cruise lines including Royal Caribbean.
Michael Bayley said the following on his Facebook page:
“US Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act. This bill would allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring that they stop in Canada. If passed, this would represent a step in the right direction for the Alaskan communities that depend on the tourism industry. If you support the bill, please reach out to your representatives to make your voice heard!”
Why a Need for This Bill?
Two laws in the United States govern the shipping industry within national water. These are the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act. The Jones Act has very little to do with the cruise line industry.
The Jones Act requires goods shipped between U.S. ports to be transported on ships built, owned, and operated by United States citizens or permanent residents.
The law that has been in the way of the cruise industry is the Passenger Vessel Services Act. This law prohibits passengers’ transportation between two different US ports on any vessel other than a U.S.-flag vessel that meets all requirements that the US has put in place.
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In short, a foreign-flagged vessel cannot service a route between two US ports. If that ship stopped in a different country on the same voyage, the law would not apply.
This means that any ship that wants to cruise to Alaska from a US port should be either US-flagged or stop in Canada. And this is where the issue is, as Canada has now banned cruise ships for the coming year.
What Is In This Bill?
The bill introduced by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of R-Alaska states the following:
“To restrict the imposition by the Secretary of Homeland Security of fines, penalties, duties, or tariffs applicable only to coastwise voyages, or prohibit otherwise qualified non-United States citizens from serving as crew, on specified vessels transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska, to address a Canadian cruise ship ban and the extraordinary impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic on Alas- kan communities, and for other purposes.”
The bill, therefore, seeks to find a way that cruise ships would be able to sail between the state of Washington and Alaska without being fined. The fine at this moment stands at $798 per person.
On average, cruise ships carry around 3,000 passengers these days. Therefore the fine for one vessel could be $2,394,000. A fine cruise line will want to avoid at all costs.
The bill would classify any ships sailing between Washington and Alaska as a foreign voyage until Canada retracts its cruise ship ban.
Whether or not it proves successful remains to be seen. In the past, the passenger vessel services act has only been amended in case of real emergencies or war. Whether the U.S. Senate will classify the current Canadian ban as an emergency seems unlikely.
If it does pass, the question would be what the cruise lines would be doing next. Most cruise lines have now canceled their Alaskan Season. However, looking at Michael Bayley’s Facebook post, it seems that there is at least one cruise line that will cruise Alaska.
Royal Caribbean has yet to announce any cancellations along with Carnival Cruise Line. Holland America Line and Princess Cruises have canceled select Alaska cruises but is also hoping that the season can be saved.
Main Photo Credit: Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock.com