U.S. senator submits bills to allow cruise ships to permanently bypass Canada
A U.S. senator has tabled three bills that would allow American cruise ships to permanently bypass Canada and other foreign ports.
Under the current U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (PVSA), American cruise lines must dock at a foreign port between two U.S. ports.
Legislation passed in May, called the "Alaska Tourism Restoration Act," allowed U.S. cruises to temporarily forgo this requirement due to COVID-19, as countries like Canada continue to ban cruises from docking for the foreseeable future.
Now, Utah senator Mike Lee says he's tabling three bills that would repeal or reform the "outdated" law.
"The PVSA is bad news," said Lee in a press release Thursday.
"This arcane law benefits Canada, Mexico, and other countries who receive increased maritime traffic, at the expense of American workers in our coastal cities, towns, and ports," he said.
In February, Canada extended its cruise ship ban until at least February 2022.
The move, and the signing of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, had members of the local tourism industry worried.
"The fact that this legislation has passed is obviously concerning because anything that is temporary can always become permanent," said Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, on May 26.
B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says he's aware of the new bill and has requested "urgent meetings" with the federal government and the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.
"The temporary measure passed in the U.S. was designed to support Alaska’s economy while Canada’s ports were not welcoming visitors," said Fleming in a statement Thursday. "This new proposed legislation is of greater concern to British Columbia and Canadians."
"This is not what cruise ship travellers want: Americans and international tourists want to visit Canadian destinations, and it enriches the experience cruise operators can offer to their passengers," he said. "We want to ensure that the tourism industries in both Canada and the U.S. come back strong."
Some Victoria tourism operators have previously said that they're confident that cruise ships will return to Canada once the country opens up its ports.
"Victoria is such an amazing city and they’re going to want to come back," said Smoke and Anchor restaurant owner Jackson Avio, adding that the more valuable U.S. dollar was a strong incentive to come to Canada.
The cruise ship industry is estimated to contribute approximately $2.7 billion to the B.C. economy annually.
With files from The Canadian Press