Alaska cruising: Federal Maritime head urges exemption to the PVSA

A Norwegian Cruise Line ship docked at Icy Strait Point in Alaska.
A Norwegian Cruise Line ship docked at Icy Strait Point in Alaska. Photo Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line

The head of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission encouraged the Biden administration and Congress to consider a limited exception to the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) while engaging the Canadian government to address the extension of its cruise ban into 2022. 

Canada last week extended its cruise ban by one year, a move that could effectively kill the big-ship Alaska cruising season due to the PVSA, which requires any foreign-flagged cruise ship departing or ending a voyage in a U.S. port to include at least one foreign port call in the itinerary.

"This action by the Canadian government may very well result in the loss of a second season for a significant portion of the Alaska cruise business,"  said commissioner Louis Sola. "Another lost season represents a potentially devastating blow to the livelihoods of thousands of Alaskans."

Sola referenced the report he published in the fall showing that Alaska suffered a revenue loss from the lack of cruising in 2020 greater than any other state on a per capita basis, and that  the cruise industry generates tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in Alaska annually.

"The economies of many Alaskan communities are entirely driven by serving ships and tourists; put plainly, no ships and no visitors means no income," he wrote this week. "It is because of this that I encourage both the Biden administration and Congress to quickly review this issue and consider a limited exception to the PVSA while simultaneously engaging the Canadian government on the diplomatic front to address this particular problem."

Sola said that finding a temporary solution to this dilemma that balances Canadian concerns with the urgent need of Alaskan communities "should be an area where our respective governments can find common ground.

"However, absent such bilateral cooperation, I would hope that there is creative and cooperative thinking taking place here in Washington D.C. to determine how to remove this impediment to Alaska's economic health."

The Federal Maritime Commission said that Sola's comments are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the commission.

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