Alaska lawmakers are setting up a court press to permanently stop a foreign government from threatening cruise operations in their state again.
Senator Lisa Murkowski said last week that she would introduce legislation allowing cruise ships to sail permanently between Alaska and the Lower 48 without stopping at a foreign port. And Congressman Don Young introduced a bill this summer that would allow ports or lands owned by native Alaska tribes or corporations to meet U.S. coasting trade requirements.
Both bills would attack the Passenger Ship Services Act (PVSA), the cabotage law that requires foreign-flagged ships to stop in at least one foreign port on cruises between two ports. Americans. Adopted over 130 years ago to protect the US shipbuilding industry, it required all major cruise ships on Alaska routes to start, end or stop in Canada.
The PVSA has been a challenge in other parts of the country, particularly Hawaii, but it did not seriously hamper Alaska cruises – until the Covid crisis, when Canada closed its borders to all. American shipping traffic and de facto halted Alaska cruise operations. Even though Lines and the CDC were working on a resolution to restart the cruise, Canada remained closed. Murkowski, Young and State Senator Dan Sullivan finally introduced emergency legislation earlier this year that granted cruises a temporary exemption from the PVSA, which passed through both chambers and was signed by President Biden in may.
Which brings us to now: Murkowski and Young both said that in the case of Alaska, the PVSA gave too much power to a foreign government over the state’s economy.
In an editorial published in the Vancouver Sun last week, Young said Covid-19 “exposed critical vulnerabilities in Alaska’s economy, which required emergency measures to save part of the cruise season summer 2021 “.
“The return of cruise ships to Southeast Alaska has brought much needed economic activity to the region,” he added. “But it also reminded us that in the future, we cannot allow such a vital part of our economy to be held hostage by a foreign country, in this case, Canada.”
Murkowski said that while the PVSA is “well-intentioned to protect American jobs and businesses, it has had the unintended consequence of putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government. It has nearly wiped out southern economies. -est of Alaska, as we have seen business after business ready to welcome visitors but unable to do so because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stops at their ports to meet requirements of the PVSA We cannot let this happen again.
Its legislation would exempt cruises to Alaska carrying more than 1,000 PVSA passengers until there is a US-built cruise ship that carries more than 1,000 passengers (to ensure that cruise ships built abroad do not compete with those built in the United States)
The Young Bill, by allowing tribal communities to replace foreign calls, would allow cruises to start and end in Alaska, “optimizing their time in our state and opening up new economic development opportunities for Alaskans,” he said. he declared.
Such a bill will inevitably meet with considerable opposition, not only from Canada but also from Washington State. Many Alaska cruises depart from Seattle so they can easily stop in Vancouver or Victoria.
The reaction came quickly from Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbor Authority, who told the CBC that the bill “would be devastating” to the economy of Victoria and British Columbia.
British Columbia Transport Minister Rob Fleming reportedly said: “The cruise ship industry is vital for tourism in British Columbia and for the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on regular arrival. of ships.
In an attempt to reassure Northwestern American communities, Young said in the editorial that his bill would benefit the tribal communities of the Lower 48 by creating port development opportunities for the tribes of Washington State and the United States. ‘Oregon. And he cited the potential of those opportunities for tribal communities in the Great Lakes and the Northeast, where this year’s cruise seasons have also been lost due to PVSA.
While it’s not yet clear whether Murkowski’s bill would affect coasting trade law beyond those affecting Washington-Alaska cruises – in her statement she made reference to cruises “Between Lower 48 and Alaska” – it is very likely that port communities in other parts of the United States would seize the momentum to try to make permanent changes.
A group in Hawaii that has long lobbied to overturn the law said so in the spring when Alaska’s temporary exemption was granted. The impact of PVSA is much greater in the remote Hawaiian market, where the nearest foreign port is Fanning Island, Kiribati, 1,000 miles south of the state, requiring a day at sea each way to reach it.
That group, the nonprofit Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said this spring that it hoped that “Alaska’s more immediate crisis will prove to be a window of opportunity for those in Hawaii and elsewhere who wish to suppress the legal barriers to dynamic ocean cruises in US waters. “