Alaska congressman wants to make B.C. ports bypass a permanent option

Alaska congressman wants to make B.C. ports bypass a permanent option

VANCOUVER — The bypassing of B.C. ports to save this summer’s Alaska cruise season – a temporary measure fuelled by Canada’s cruise ship ban, in place until Nov. 1, 2021 – could become permanent if some U.S. politicians get their way.

The situation has been brewing for months and resurfaced this week.

This summer’s temporary measure, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, was signed by U.S. President Joe Biden in May 2021. The legislation allows U.S. cruise ships to temporarily sail to Alaska without having to stop in Canada.

Up until now U.S.-based cruise lines have always had to include non-U.S. ports on their itineraries, a longstanding requirement set out by the US. Passenger Vessels Services Act (PVSA).

Canada’s cruise ship ban, originally extended until February 2022, is currently set to lift Nov. 1, 2021, as announced by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on July 15. The announcement was cheered by ACTA and other industry groups.

In an opinion piece titled ‘Charting a Course for the Next Century of Maritime Policy’, which ran this week in both The Anchorage Daily News and the Vancouver Sun, Alaska congressman Don Young says “we cannot allow such a vital portion of our economy to be held hostage by a foreign country, in this case, Canada.”

Young adds: “Upon the expiration of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, Canada will once again have de facto veto authority over Alaska’s cruise industry. As a result, we must reform the PVSA to protect the sovereignty of our tourism economy.

Earlier this summer Young introduced the Tribal Tourism Sovereignty Act. “My proposal is simple yet powerful,” says Young in his op-ed. “Large foreign-flagged passenger vessels that call on ports or places in the United States owned by Tribes or Alaska Native Corporations would be compliant with the PVSA’s foreign-stop requirement.”

Young finishes by saying: “Amending the PVSA is not unprecedented, and my bill would prevent Alaska from pursuing a piecemeal approach in the future. It is time for a new model that does not allow foreign governments to control Alaska’s economy. My proposal offers a win-win opportunity for tourism markets and native communities. It is time we seized this moment to chart a course for the next century in Alaska.”

The Vancouver Sun reports that B.C. Premier John Horgan says he’s confident the cruise industry will continue to include B.C. ports.