Murkowski, Sullivan Successful in Push to Provide Economic Recovery Opportunity for Small Business Owners and Alaskan Communities
Alaska Tourism Restoration Act Passes the Senate, Alaska is One Step Closer to Resuming Cruise Ship Operations
This afternoon the U.S. Senate passed S. 593, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA), legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK). The bill provides a way for cruise ships to bring passengers to Alaska, despite the Canadian prohibition on passenger vessels traveling through Canadian waters en route to Alaska. It will give Alaskans, small business owners, and Alaska’s statewide economy an opportunity to have some semblance of a tourist season. Both Senators spoke on the Senate floor right after the legislation passed to urge the House to swiftly pass the bill in order to prevent Alaskan communities from losing out on another tourism season. U.S. Congressman Don Young (R-AK) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
This legislation comes in response to Canada’s Interim Order No. 5 Respecting Passenger Vessel Restrictions Due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) which bans pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022. The ATRA works to provide economic opportunity for communities who rely on tourism by temporarily alleviating Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions—for as long as the Canadian ban is in place—for large cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska. The fix is essential to allowing cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring they stop in Canada, as U.S. law would normally require.
“The Alaska Delegation has been working every angle to help find a path forward for struggling Alaskans who rely on the tourism industry. Senate passage of my legislation sends a strong signal that we will not stand idly by, withering on the vine, until another country catches up to our level of readiness. This shows that the health and restoration of our economy cannot be held up by Canada, especially since Alaska has led with vaccinations in the country and our communities are ready to welcome visitors back,” said Senator Murkowski. “Unanimous agreement in the Senate on this bill provides certainty and opportunity for cruise companies to resume sailing to Alaska, as they have for so many years—and more importantly, helps safeguard the livelihoods of Alaskan-owned small businesses, and entire communities, that serve these cruise passengers. I thank Senators Cantwell, Wicker, Blumenthal, and Lee for coming to the table and working with us on a path forward and all my Senate colleagues for recognizing the urgency of this situation for Alaskans. Our hope is that the House will now promptly follow suit.”
“I want to thank Senator Murkowski for her work and my colleagues in the Senate for coming together today to give the thousands of Alaskans in the tourism sector a fighting chance at salvaging our 2021 summer cruise ship season,” said Senator Sullivan. “The passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act today is an example of the U.S. Senate working at its best. This is an important step forward, but we still have more work to do. Congressman Don Young, the dean of the House and a great advocate for Alaska, will be working with his colleagues to quickly get the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act through the House. And, we’re continuing to work around the clock with CDC leaders to finally issue workable guidance that allows the cruise lines and coastal communities to safely welcome visitors again. Given the CDC’s much-awaited loosening of mask guidelines today for vaccinated Americans, I am hopeful we will see progress on this front as well.”
- 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 Passenger Vessel Services Act (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 (ATRA)
- 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.
- 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.