• Tom Drake

Senate Passes Bill to Save Alaska Season, The House is Next.

Alaska Senator Murkowski announce successful vote last Wednesday.

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.”

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