Congressman Don Young is looking to repeat.
The Alaska congressional delegation moved the powers that be in Washington, D.C. earlier this year to get the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.
The act resulted in the suspension of the Passenger Vessel Service’s Act, which prevented foreign-flagged cruise ships that call in Ketchikan from sailing between two U.S. ports without touching a foreign port. In this case, Canadian ports in British Columbia, which were closed as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The suspension, which is in place until February, allowed for an abbreviated cruise ship season in Alaska's Southeast region.
Young recently introduced the Tribal Tourism Sovereignty Act that, if made law, would allow ports or land owned by Tribes or Alaska Native Corporations to satisfy the PVSA's foreign stop stipulation.
The intent is to eliminate the potential for Canada to put Alaska's cruise season in jeopardy again.
"COVID-19 exposed critical vulnerabilities in Alaska’s economy, which required emergency action to save a portion of the 2021 summer cruise season," Young says. "The return of cruise ships to southeast Alaska brought much-needed economic activity to the region. But it also served as a reminder that, in the future, we cannot allow such a vital portion of our economy to be held hostage by a foreign country, in this case, Canada. Make no mistake about it, without the passage of the Alaskan Tourism Restoration Act, Canada’s port closures would have doomed the 2021 cruise season despite our ability to mitigate COVID-19 on large cruise vessels."
It could happen again.
"Upon the expiration of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, Canada will once again have de facto veto authority over Alaska’s cruise industry," he says. "As a result, we must reform the PVSA to protect the sovereignty of our tourism economy."
Southeasterners don't want a next time. Young's legislation just might be the ticket to prevent it.