The push to get Alaska-bound cruise ships exempt from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) and being able to avoid calling in Canada has reached a significant step forward. The bill from U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has been introduced to congress.
Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act Introduced to Congress
On September 15, 2021, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski announced a new bill to help Alaska avoid a repeat of no cruise ships being allowed to visit the state due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act. That bill named Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act has now been introduced to congress and can be viewed here.
“A few months ago, we were able to move the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act over the finish line, providing a temporary legislative fix to the PVSA to help bring tourism back to a number of Alaskan communities that rely on the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the state by way of cruise ships. While the PVSA still serves its purpose in the Lower 48, it unintentionally put many Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government when Canada closed its borders, including ports. The inability for cruises to travel to Alaska nearly wiped out our economies in Southeast—communities like Skagway for example saw an 80 percent drop in business revenues,” said Senator Murkowski.
The bill aims to provide cruise ships sailing to Alaska from the U.S. a permanent exemption from the PVSA, which would result in the vessels not having to call in Canada before heading to visit Alaska.
The Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act would then come to an end once there is a U.S.-built cruise ship that can carry more than 1,000 passengers. Currently, the only U.S. flagged cruise ship is the Pride of America, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, based in Hawaii. All other cruise ships are flagged in countries such as Panama and the Bahamas.
Sen. Murkowski continues to say, “I’m proud to introduce new legislation to provide a permanent exemption for cruises between any U.S. port and Alaska from the PVSA. My new bill guarantees the PVSA will not intrude on Alaska’s tourism economy, while also ensuring foreign-built ships do not compete with U.S.-built ships. This legislation is good news for every Alaskan whose livelihood relies on tourism.”
The new bill introduced comes after the Senator was heavily involved in getting the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) passed through congress and signed by President Biden on May 24, 2021. That bill came to light after Canada banned cruise ships for more than a year, which resulted in cruises being unable to call in Alaska due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act.
During the suspensions of operations, Alaska got hit hard without any cruise ship calls. In 2019, the state hosted more than 1.3 million cruise visitors. In 2020 that number came down to nothing, which considerably impacted local businesses that rely on tourism.
Also Read: IDEAL Things to Do in Skagway, Alaska
How the bill is received by congress remains to be seen, but with the push from the Alaska senator, the Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act could soon become a reality. The impact on cruises to Canada could be something of a worry. Still, for now, multiple cruise ships have already resumed operations from Seattle, Washington to Alaska, thanks to the successful work from the Senator on the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act.