Murkowski Introduces Legislation to Permanently Exempt Alaska-Bound Cruises from the PVSA, Boosting Economies and Jobs

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced new legislation, the Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act, to provide a permanent exemption from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) for cruises transporting passengers to Alaska from the rest of the U.S. In an effort to support U.S. shipbuilders and Alaska’s tourism industry, this waiver will end once there is a U.S.-built ship that carries more than 1,000 passengers. Senator Murkowski previously introduced the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA), signed into law on May 24, 2021, which provided a temporary exemption from the PVSA for cruises traveling between the State of Washington and Alaska in order to get around Canada’s restrictions preventing U.S. cruises from docking at their ports.  

“A few months ago, we were able to move the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act over the finish line, providing a temporary legislative fix to the PVSA to help bring tourism back to a number of Alaskan communities that rely on the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the state by way of cruise ships. While the PVSA still serves its purpose in the Lower 48, it unintentionally put many Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government when Canada closed its borders, including ports. The inability for cruises to travel to Alaska nearly wiped out our economies in Southeast—communities like Skagway for example saw an 80 percent drop in business revenues,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to introduce new legislation to provide a permanent exemption for cruises between any U.S. port and Alaska from the PVSA. My new bill guarantees the PVSA will not intrude on Alaska’s tourism economy, while also ensuring foreign-built ships do not compete with U.S.-built ships. This legislation is good news for every Alaskan whose livelihood relies on tourism.”   


In 2019, Alaska hosted over 1.3 million visitors by way of cruise ships. That number came to a halt in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated mandates, decimating Alaskan small businesses and Alaska’s economy overall. For example, according to a Southeast Conference June 2020 report, Skagway business revenue was down 80 percent compared to the same period in 2019. The tourism industry in Alaska typically generates more than $214 million in state and municipal revenue, more than $1.4 billion in payroll, and $2.2 billion in visitor spending—all of which saw a significant decline during the coronavirus pandemic.