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‘Open up the marine and land borders’: Proposed U.S. bill a blow to B.C. cruise industry

Click to play video: 'New U.S. rules could allow for Alaska cruise season to start' New U.S. rules could allow for Alaska cruise season to start
WATCH: A new U.S. law could allow for Alaska cruises to restart, traversing Canadian waters but without stopping at Canadian ports. – May 14, 2021

A bill that would allow U.S. cruise ships to temporarily bypass Canadian ports could have a “devastating impact” on the B.C. tourism industry, the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said Friday.

The industry brings in $130 million a year to the Victoria economy alone, Ian Robertson told Global News.

“Cruise tourism to British Columbia is significant, it’s worth over $2.7 billion a year to the Vancouver, Victoria, Prince Rupert, Nanaimo economy,” Robertson said.

Read more: Concerns raised about proposed Alaska cruise ship legislation that could cost B.C. millions

On May 13, the U.S. senate approved a bill, first brought forward by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would allow U.S. ships to bypass Canadian ports for as long as the borders are closed. To become law, this bill must still pass in the US House of Representatives and then be signed by President Joe Biden.

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The B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport said in a statement that cruise ships wishing to resume operations to Alaska must first follow a return-to-sail program overseen by the CDC but there is concern that this move could be a huge blow to the B.C. economy.

Click to play video: 'B.C. tourism industry concerned about proposed U.S. cruise ship law' B.C. tourism industry concerned about proposed U.S. cruise ship law
B.C. tourism industry concerned about proposed U.S. cruise ship law – Mar 24, 2021

Ottawa recently extended its cruise ship ban until 2022.

“I’ve read the legislation, it is very clear, it states that as long as the Canada U.S. border is closed, this waiver (would be) in effect,” Robertson said.

“We’re pushing for both the provincial and federal government for a plan to open up the marine and land borders and I think that the longer we as a country takes to make these kinds of decisions, just adds fuel to this situation.”

“We need a plan. Whether it’s cruise tourism or tourism in general, you need a plan to open up and we’re not saying it’s now, but how?”

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The Ministry said B.C. Premier John Horgan has reached out to meet with Alaskan senators in the coming weeks.

Click to play video: 'Impact of Canada’s decision to extend large cruise ship ban' Impact of Canada’s decision to extend large cruise ship ban
Impact of Canada’s decision to extend large cruise ship ban – Feb 11, 2021

Read more: Big hit to B.C’s cruise ship sector as Feds extend ban until 2022

“As expected, the legislation is clear that the changes would be automatically rescinded when Canadian ports are reopened to cruise ships,” the ministry said.

“This means that as soon as Canadian ports are ready to welcome cruise ships again, they will be required by U.S. law to stop here on their way to Alaska, even if the current bill becomes law.”

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