Alaska Delegation Introduces Bill to Protect Alaska’s Cruise Season, Boosting Economy and Supporting Small Businesses
Extends Last Year’s Successful Legislation-the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, all (R-AK) introduced bicameral legislation to provide a one year extension of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA), which was signed into law in May 2021.
Under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), foreign vessels must stop at a foreign port between U.S. ports. While Canada’s borders are currently open to international travelers, they were not in 2021 which is why Alaska’s Congressional delegation pushed for and received a one year exemption from the PVSA. This new extension ensures that if Canada closes its borders during 2022, the Alaska delegation is ready and able to again temporarily authorize foreign-flagged passenger vessels to bypass Canada.
“Alaska’s economy and our communities should not be at the mercy of decisions made by the Canadian government and I will do whatever is needed to ensure Alaskans can prosper,” said Senator Murkowski. “The introduction of this legislation provides another tool in our tool box in the event that it is needed. It also sends a message to the world that Alaska is ready and excited to welcome visitors to our state this upcoming season.”
“The losses from the cancelled 2020 cruise ship season left many of our small businesses across Southeast devastated and in the red, not to mention the communities and workers they support,” said Sen. Sullivan. “We were able to salvage a portion of the 2021 season with the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, but these hard-working Alaskans are still a long way from their pre-pandemic strength. Simply put, we need a banner year for visitors in 2022. Alaskans cannot gamble again on the goodwill and commonsense of our Canadian neighbors, who failed us last year. Senator Murkowski, Congressman Young, and I are asking our colleagues to again recognize the unique challenge the PVSA poses to Alaska and grant a one-year extension of our Alaska Tourism Restoration Act as we all work together on a longer-term exemption from the PVSA’s antiquated restrictions.”
"We find ourselves here again: despite vastly declining COVID-19 cases, a higher vaccination rate than any other mode of transportation, and proven viral mitigation measures, Canada cannot guarantee that they will not take actions that may disrupt a complete and robust 2022 Alaskan Cruise season. While the cruise industry and Canadian authorities continue conversations, and progress has been made, formal legislation is a necessary insurance policy to protect Alaskan livelihoods,” said Congressman Don Young. “Last year, despite long odds, our small but mighty Delegation did what many thought was impossible by securing a PVSA waiver allowing domestic cruise voyages to bypass Canada entirely. We value our Canadian neighbors and recognize that the economies of both countries benefit greatly from tourism. Canada is a sovereign nation, and they are free to govern themselves as they choose, but so shall Alaska and the United States. As such, I continue to believe that a permanent solution is necessary so that Alaska's economy is not subject to the actions of a foreign government. Today, I am proud to join Senators Murkowski and Sullivan as we introduce legislation to extend the successful Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which passed Congress unanimously last year and was swiftly signed into law by the President. As it did for the 2021 summer cruise season, this bill would waive the PVSA's foreign stop requirement, permitting domestic voyages to travel from the Lower 48 directly to Alaska. Here is the truth: Alaska's 2021 cruise season commenced with far lower COVID infection rates than air travel. There were no deaths, and the virus was not spread to our communities. We can do this safely, and the Alaska-grown mom-and-pop businesses who depend on a strong tourism sector count on us to do everything within our power to ensure a successful summer. Should Canada take any action to disrupt the 2022 Alaskan season, we stand ready to move this legislation for a second consecutive year. If there is one takeaway from the previously successful effort, it is this: never underestimate Alaska's Congressional Delegation."
- On May 24, 2021, ATRA was signed into law by the President.
- Following Senate passage, Congressman Don Young worked with House Leadership to bring the legislation to the floor this week. On May 20, ATRA passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
- On May 13, ATRA passed the U.S. Senate.
- On May 13, Representative Young sent a letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas urging him to collaborate with Canadian authorities to accept technical stops in Canadian waters to satisfy the PVSA’s requirements.
- On May 11, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan wrote letters urging Canada to reconsider the prohibition for passenger vessels in Canada’s ports and waters, and calling on the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to accept technical stops in Canada to satisfy the PVSA, which currently restricts cruise ships transportation passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.
- On April 30, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan spoke on the Senate floor urging their Senate colleagues to consider and pass S. 593, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act.
- On March 26, the Alaska Congressional Delegation sent a letter with colleagues to Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID Response Coordinator, urging the Biden administration to be more transparent and timely in their efforts to develop guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise ship industry.
- On March 19, both Senators met in person with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Anchorage, AK and discussed Canada’s border closures and sent a follow up letter on March 24, reiterating and emphasizing the need to work together to address Canada’s border closures.
- On March 5, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan introduced the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act to alleviate the PVSA restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.
- On February 24, Congressman Don Young introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act in the House of Representatives.
- On February 13, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) penned a letter to Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, urging him to work with the Alaska Congressional Delegation on COVID-19 travel restrictions in an effort to limit the negative impacts to Alaskan and Canadian constituents.
- On February 4, the Alaska Congressional Delegation reacted to an announcement by the Canadian Minister of Transport regarding two new Interim Orders which ban pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022.
- On February 4, Congressman Young sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, Counselor to President Biden, urging the Administration to work with Alaska’s tourism sector, which continues to suffer from COVID-19’s impacts on travel. Additionally, Congressman Young is calling for collaboration with the Administration in light of Canada’s announcement that their ports will remain closed to cruise vessel traffic until 2022.
- In October 2020, in an effort to address US-Canada border crossing issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Murkowski, Sullivan, Congressman Young, and Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) sent a letter to Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise specific issues severely impacting Alaskans due to border crossing restrictions due to COVID-1. In their letter, the Alaska Delegation highlighted specific, persisting challenges impacting the health and safety of Alaskans and proposed reasonable solutions.