Alaska senator proposes to permanently waive port restriction

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she will introduce legislation enabling cruise ships to permanently sail between Alaska and the Lower 48 without stopping in a foreign port. 

The bill would exempt Alaska cruises carrying more than 1,000 passengers from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), the U.S. law mandating that foreign-flagged ships stop in at least one foreign port on cruises between two U.S ports. It was enacted in 1886 to protect the U.S. shipbuilding industry. 

“While the PVSA is well-intentioned to protect American jobs and businesses, it had the unintended consequence of putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government,” Murkowski said during a speech in Haines this week. “It nearly wiped out Southeast Alaskan economies as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors but unable to because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stops at their ports to meet the requirement of PVSA. We cannot let that happen again.” 

  • Related: Canada lifting cruise ban on Nov. 1

Murkowski said the legislation would exempt Alaska cruises carrying more than 1,000 passengers from the PVSA until there is a U.S.-built cruise ship that carries more than 1,000 passengers, to ensure that foreign-built cruise ships do not compete with ones built in the U.S. 

“We do not want to compete with U.S. shipbuilders — that’s why this legislation ends once there is an American market,” she said. “Bottom line, we need to reform the PVSA so that Alaskans’ ability to engage in commerce isn’t derailed by the government of another country.”

Murkowski and Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, cosponsored the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act in the spring, giving cruise ships a temporary reprieve from the PVSA as long as Canada’s cruise ban was in place. It passed both chambers unanimously before being signed into law by President Joe Biden on May 24.

The legislation allowed Alaska to operate a small and truncated cruise season this summer. 

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