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Congress members call Canada's ban of cruise ships "unacceptable"

09 Feb 2021
Matt Hochberg

Canada's decision to ban all cruise ships for a year is not sitting well with the state of Alaska.

Following Canada's Ministry of Transport decision to ban cruise ships from its waters until February 2022, lawmakers are looking for ways to salvage a critical piece of Alaska' tourism industry.

Without access to Canadian ports, cruise ships cannot legally sail to Alaska due to U.S. maritime law. 

In a joint statement, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, called the Canadian cruise ship ban, "unacceptable" and said they are looking for answers as to why the ban had to be so long.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan

The joint statement criticizes Canada's decision without first discussing the matter with the Alaska delegation, "Canada’s announcement to ban all cruise sailings carrying 100 people or more traveling through Canadian waters, without so much as a courtesy conversation with the Alaska Delegation, is not only unexpected—it is unacceptable—and was certainly not a decision made with any consideration for Alaskans or our economy."

"We expect more from our Canadian allies."

Since the ban was announced, the Senators and Congressman have reached out to American and Canadian authorities to get a better sense of why the ban had to be so long.

"We are exploring all potential avenues, including changing existing laws, to ensure the cruise industry in Alaska resumes operations as soon as it is safe. We will fight to find a path forward."

On Twitter, Senator Sullivan said he was "stunned" by Canada's ban.

"I was stunned by Canada's decision to ban cruise vessel crossings in Canadian waters for another full year—a decision made without consultation or notice of Alaskans. This is unacceptable, and not in keeping with the cooperative relationship we’ve had with our Canadian neighbors."

Why can't cruises sail without Canada?

Canada's ban will prevent Alaska sailings out of Seattle via Canada because of maritime law.

Most countries, including the United States, have cabotage laws designed to protect the U.S. maritime industry.  

The Passenger Vessel Service Act (PVSA) of 1886 requires foreign flagged cruise ships to call on a foreign port if sailing a closed-loop cruise form the United States.

This means, cruise ships cannot sail from Seattle and only visit Alaska ports.  It must make a stop outside the country, and Canada is the only place between Seattle and Alaska for that.

The justification for both the PVSA is to protect the U.S. Merchant Marine (the licensed (officers) and documented (trades) personnel on the ships) and to protect U.S. shipyards that both build and repair the ships .

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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