Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan joined the rising call to temporarily eliminate a barrier to cruise ships this coming season.
Congressman Don Young introduced a bill in the House last week; Murkowski’s and Sullivan’s bill essentially is its companion in the Senate.
Its intent is to alleviate the Passenger Vessel Services Act rules for cruise ships that sail into Alaska during the spring, summer and fall.
Presently, the ships leaving Washington state — because they are foreign flagged — are required to moor, anchor or berth in another foreign country, in this case, Canada, before calling in an American port, such as the ships have done for decades in Ketchikan.
But, because of the novel coronavirus, Canada has banned the largest cruise ships in its waters.
“By providing this technical fix to the PVSA for Alaska-bound cruise ships from the state of Washington,” says Murkowski, “we are taking significant steps towards safely resuming cruise ship activity and economic certainty at a time when Alaskans need it most.”
Sullivan says he and Murkowski have been working not only in Congress, but with the Canadian government, the Centers for Disease Control, the Biden administration and Alaska leaders on the issue.
Local government officials and chamber of commerces have joined Alaska business and industry in encouraging at least a temporary lift of the PVSA.
The potential reprieve would be one step toward reopening the cruise ship season. The ships are working with the CDC toward resuming Alaska operations, but, even then, the ships will need assurances of cruises elsewhere at the conclusion of their season here.
But the first, second and third steps have to be taken before those that follow to bring cruising back to Ketchikan and Southeast.