The Alaska House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday that urges Congress to allow an exemption for cruise ships to bypass Canada and sail in Alaska this year.
Currently, federal law requires foreign-flagged ships to make an international stop between Washington state and Alaska, but Canada has closed its waters to cruise vessels. So, the bill is part of a last-ditch effort for coastal communities to get a month or two of cruise ship tourism in 2021.
“So, the bill passing the House was the last serious hurdle before it gets sent off to the federal government,” said Sen. Jesse Kiehl, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Now it’s up to Alaska’s congressional delegation to make it happen. Kiehl said it’s an uphill battle since other states don’t have as much to gain as Alaska does. But he’s hopeful.
“I’ve read legislation for a long time. Don Young’s bill is one of the cleverest pieces of drafting I’ve seen in a while. It’s really well put together: very short, very succinct, very elegant,” Kiehl said. “And I’ll just hit it again, very temporary.”
Even if Representative Don Young and Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan could get an exemption for Alaska, it would still be a herculean task for cruise companies to mobilize. They’d have to comply with strict restrictions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There is no chance that right now we’ll have a full cruise ship season. That ship has sailed — if you’ll pardon the pun,” Kiehl said. “But the hope is that we can get some movement and some precise guidelines on how to meet the CDC requirements out of Washington, D.C., in time for cruise companies to make a commercial decision and bring a month or two of sailings to Alaska waters.”
It’s an incremental step in the solution to a complicated issue, but it shows the Legislature supports communities that are hurting without cruise tourism this summer.
The resolution goes to the Alaska Senate next for final review.