Ketchikan is anticipating 1.4 million cruise ship passengers during the 2022 season.
Southeast Alaskans want nothing to prevent their arrival.
Neither does Alaska’s congressional delegation, which took a swing at the Passenger Vessel Services Act this year and knocked it out of the ballpark— at least temporarily.
The delegation herded an Alaska-specific suspension to the act through Congress and had it signed by President Joe Biden in time for an abbreviated 2021 cruise season.
The act requires foreign-flagged cruise ships — such as those that call at the Port of Ketchikan — to tag a foreign port in between American ports. Ships sailing between Seattle and Southeast Alaska typically call at a British Columbia, Canada, port to satisfy the law.
Canada had banned the ships in response to the novel coronavirus.
Alaskans and the Alaska economy, specifically the economies of coastal communities where cruise ships call, would like to prevent the PVSA posing any threat to the industry striving diligently to return to pre-COVID-19 sailing schedules in 2022.
The PVSA suspension enacted earlier this year expires in February 2022.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young recently introduced legislation in their respective houses to permanently exempt Alaska-bound cruises from the PVSA.
According to a Murkowski press release, the proposed legislation stipulates that should an U.S.-built ship carrying more than 1,000 passengers join the cruise schedule, the waiver of the PVSA would end.
The PVSA exists in order to support U.S. shipbuilders and ship operators over foreign building and operators.
Presently, Canada has not indicated whether it will extend the ban.
That leaves Southeast and the cruise industry in a quandary, and an expensive one at that.
The region, its communities and businesses that cater to the cruise ship passengers lost millions of dollars in 2020, and, while some industry returned this year, it is less than 10% of what Southeast typically saw in 2019 and before. The decline for businesses meant fewer jobs, as well.
The legislation presented by Murkowski is referred to as the Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act.
Passing the act will be the Alaska delegation’s second swing at the PVSA. Time is of the essence with preparations for the next cruise season already underway for the industry, local governments and businesses. The season, which started in July this year, usually starts in April.
Southeast Alaskans are looking this time around for the delegation to not only knock the PVSA’s restrictions on Alaska cruise ships out of the park, but into oblivion.