Murkowski, Sullivan Urge U.S. and Canada Leaders to Advance Efforts to Resume Cruise Ship Industry Operations to Alaska

Continue Push to Salvage 2021 Tourism Season

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan (both R-AK) called on the United States and Canada to address the urgent need to advance efforts to address Canada’s recent cruise ship ban and the negative impacts it will have on Alaska’s economy. 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.

Senators Murkowski and Sullivan wrote to Canada Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to urge him to reconsider the implementation of Interim Order No. 5 Respecting Passenger Vessel Restrictions Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which prohibits passenger vessels in Canada’s ports and waters. In their letter, the senators ask that cruise vessels be permitted to moor in Canadian ports for at least four hours and explain how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken considerable steps for cruise vessels to meet the highest safety and disease prevention standards.

“We hope that members of the United States administration will agree that suspending passenger shore excursions is prudent given the state of the pandemic, and the best way to respect your wishes while also meeting the needs of Alaska,” wrote the Senators. “While we have sought a temporary legislative fix to the domestic laws that require a port call in Canada, our long-term goal is to keep the system of mutually beneficial tourism between our two great nations intact. We believe that your acceptance of our proposed solution is preferable to any legislative fix that may disrupt that system. We remain committed to working together to find mutually acceptable, safe solutions and opportunities despite the devastating pandemic.” 

To read the letter, click here.

Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan also penned a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, to request a reasonable interpretation of the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) that respects Canada’s boundaries by temporarily allowing large cruise ships to pause passenger shore excursions while moored in Canada. Today Senator Murkowski spoke briefly with the Secretary on this issue during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Also today, at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing Vice Chairman Murkowski asked the President and CEO of the Huna Totem Corporation about the impact of the PVSA and what economic opportunity would Hoonah have without a tourism season. Russell Dick of Huna Totem urged Congress to reform the PVSA, because without such reform, the community might have no economy this summer at all. (Read his testimony here.) Without a commonsense application of the PVSA, cruises will be able to sail in and around the United States, except to Alaska – a devastating result for Alaska’s economy, which has already been hit hard by the pandemic.

“For the past year, we have waited for the CDC to issue sufficient guidance and clarity to allow cruises to resume sailing safely. Now, we believe the opportunity to resume cruising is nearly upon us. Yet, without a flexible application of PVSA, cruises will sail in and around the United States, except to Alaska. This would leave our hard-hit state ever more behind as it struggles to recover economically,” the Senators wrote. “Given the extraordinary hardship we face as a result of the global pandemic, we believe this fix is both necessary and right-sized. Directing the CBP to suspend one aspect of their interpretation of PVSA review will reflect the United States’ due respect for the Canadian government’s concerns and will afford the State of Alaska a real chance for economic recovery.”

To read the letter, click here.


  • 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 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.