U.S. congressman pushing for cruise ships to permanently bypass British Columbia

Click to play video: 'Alaskan politicians want cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports' Alaskan politicians want cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports
Tourism operators on the South Coast are growing concerned that cruise ships from Alaska may never return to B.C. This as an Alaskan senator plans to introduce a bill that would allow vessels from that state to bypass Canadian ports. Kylie Stanton has more. – Sep 15, 2021

Alaska Congressman Don Young has introduced legislation that, if passed, would allow cruise ships to permanently skip ports in British Columbia.

Young, a Republican serving his 25th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, is pushing for a law that would allow ports or land owned by Tribes or Alaska Native Corporations to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act’s  foreign stop requirement.

Currently, under the Passenger Vessels Services Act, large foreign-flagged passenger vessels are not permitted to make consecutive U.S. port stops without a foreign stop in between.

For the 2021 cruise ship season, cruises were exempted from stopping in Canada on voyages between Seattle and Alaska due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click to play video: 'B.C. cruise industry concerns over proposed U.S. law.' B.C. cruise industry concerns over proposed U.S. law.
B.C. cruise industry concerns over proposed U.S. law – Jun 11, 2021

“With new tools for economic development and prosperity, I believe Alaska can come back stronger than ever before,” Young said in op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun.

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“When the chapter about the COVID-19 pandemic is written in Alaska’s history, it will be remembered as a time of resilience, shared sacrifice, and the never-give-up spirit that lives within all Alaskans.”

Young says the pandemic “exposed critical vulnerabilities” in Alaska’s economy, which required emergency action to save a portion of the 2021 summer cruise season.

Click to play video: 'Alaska cruise ships to return with no B.C. stops' Alaska cruise ships to return with no B.C. stops
Alaska cruise ships to return with no B.C. stops – May 22, 2021

The Canadian tourism economy has benefited by the American law by forcing cruise ship companies to either start in Vancouver or stop in Victoria on the way from Seattle to Alaska. The industry is worth more than $4 billion for the Canadian economy.

“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,” Young said.

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“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.”

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

Speaking on CKNW’s Jas Johal Show on Tuesday, Premier John Horgan said that he had a positive meeting with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski earlier this year.

Horgan said cruisers “love” to travel along the coast including stops in British Columbia.

The Canadian government rejected a request from the United States for a technical stop along the coast to avoid the temporary legislation that was eventually passed.

Victoria and Vancouver are preparing for cruise ships to come back in the spring.

“We are very actively engaging with the industry making sure they are seeing Vancouver and Victoria, and the lion share of the trip, if through British Columbia,” Horgan said.

“It is unfortunate we have these disruptions to our relationship.”

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