ICYMI: Murkowski Continues Fight to Restore Alaska’s Economy

‘We hear you, we are with you, and we are committed to finding a path forward’

The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated Alaska’s tourism industry. The lack of cruise ship passengers traveling to the state has severely impacted Alaskans, small business owners, and Alaska’s economy overall. In support of struggling Alaskans, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) this week spoke on the U.S. Senate floor to urge her colleagues to consider and pass S. 593, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA), legislation she introduced, with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) as a cosponsor. Their bill would alleviate the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska, allowing cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring they stop in Canada, as U.S. law would normally require. 

This legislation comes in response to a February 4 announcement by 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.

“We are making good progress toward solutions for the Alaska cruise industry, and in turn, Alaska’s economy. I have been working for months, urging the CDC to provide clear guidance for the cruise industry. Not only have they now issued that guidance, they have reengaged with the industry, and are now proactively seeking out consultation and communication with the Alaska Congressional Delegation. Senator Sullivan and I have also made significant headway with our colleagues Senators Blumenthal and Lee. I recognize Senator Blumenthal has a targeted focus on consumer protections and Senator Lee has significant concerns about the Jones Act and PVSA waivers, but both understand the need to find a reasonable exception for Alaskans,” said Senator Murkowski. “I recognize the deep anxiety among Alaskans across the state. Know that the Alaska Congressional Delegation understands the challenges that our coastal communities are feeling. We are working every angle at the local, state, and federal level to make sure that Alaskans make it through this next year. We are still pushing and still working to provide an opportunity for cruises to sail to Alaska. We are also continuing to look for solutions that would address this fix on the administrative level, and to that end, we are hopeful that the Canadian government may also consider creative definitions for a technical stop. To Alaskans - we hear you, we are with you, and we are committed to finding a path forward.”


Senator Murkowski ATRA photo 1

To watch Senator Murkowski’s full floor speech, click here.

Speech Excerpts:

  • “Senator Sullivan and I have been working on behalf of hundreds of small businesses that rely on this essential income just so they can scrape by for another year. A lot of people don’t think about cruise ships as being an essential activity during a pandemic but let me tell you, in our state where so much of our economy is just based on tourism, it’s an imperative; it’s jobs, it’s livelihoods, and it really is what allows our small communities to keep their doors open.”
  • “What we have faced in the state of Alaska regards to our state’s economy is we’ve probably taken a bigger hit than any state in the country. We saw a 32 percent drop in revenue last year, 10 percent higher than any other state in the nation.”
  • “We’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and that’s good, but we are also facing the prospect of another devastating tourist season.”
  • “Back home right now people are not talking about the season for 2021 coming up. The motto is, “Get through to 2022”. That’s an awful way to be approaching our situation and so they have asked for help. They realize that anything that we can do to try to salvage even a few weeks of tourist season is going to be important to us.”
  • “14 months until we get into 2022 on top of what we’ve already seen—these businesses won’t be there.”
  • “I’m here offer with Senator Sullivan to offer a temporary fix that will allow the cruise ships to travel between Washington State and Alaska. Because what we’re trying to do here—I’m not trying to save the cruise companies, I’m trying to save communities that are so dependent on their passengers. For them, it’s critical.