Alaskan lawmakers are pushing for legislation that would allow large foreign-flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without having to make a stop in Canada.
A new bill was introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski on Sept. 23. Titled Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act, the legislation calls to “permit under certain conditions the transportation of passengers between the State of Alaska and other United States ports on vessels not qualified to engage in the coastwise trade that transport more than 1,000 passengers, and for other purposes.”
She said that Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), first introduced in 1886, has put “Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government.”
“It nearly wiped out Southeast Alaskan economies as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors, but unable to because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stops at their ports to meet the requirement of PVSA. We cannot let that happen again,” Senator Murkowski said.
While another bill submitted by Alaska congressman, Don Young, in summer 2021, calls to “deem certain voyages transporting passengers between ports or places within the United States in compliance with certain requirements upon calling on a port owned by an Indian Tribe, and for other purposes.”
In the bill documentation the term “Indian Tribe” is explained as “any federally recognized Indian tribe, band, nation, village, or other organized group or community” and “any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.”
In the realm of the current regulation (temporarily paused because of the pandemic) – the PVSA –, this would mean that Alaska ports owned by local indigenous tribes would be considered foreign.
According to industry sources, one such port that would qualify as native land would be Icy Strait Point.
However, sailing to Alaska without stopovers in Canada can hurt Canadian tourism and economy sectors, claim Canadian authorities.
“It could be very damaging,” Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, told CBC. “We need to take this legislation very seriously.”
He said that Vancouver is unlikely to be badly hurt as many cruise ships start and finish itineraries there, but Victoria is at risk. Robertson said that British Columbia needs to work with the cruise industry “to lobby to Washington to do what we can to make sure this legislation does not get passed.”