Canada, months before cruising season starts, cancelled all port calls of cruise ships on its coast lines this year.
This is an economy crusher for Southeast Alaska primarily, unless Congress has the political will to pass a waiver of the Passenger Vessel Service Act, which would allow cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports. The act, as it is written, requires these vessels to stop in Canada on their way to Alaska.
The news of the cruise ship cancellations came after Southeast Alaska has already suffered one full year of economic devastation. Stories from small businesses in Juneau and Skagway reveal that many private sector Alaskans will not be able to make it another year. This is the year they will have to declare bankruptcy or leave the state and look for employment elsewhere. Even another PPP relief plan won’t save some of the tour operators or gift shop owners from Ketchikan to Fairbanks.
The news is also bad for Seattle, where many of the Alaska cruises begin. But the Port of Seattle was not particularly upset.
Port of Seattle maritime director Stephanie Jones Stebbins issued a statement Thursday, reacting to the Canadian government’s move.
“We respect the decision by the Canadian government to continue the suspension of cruise vessels in their waters,” Stephanie Jones Stebbins said to the Puget Sound Business Journal. “This impacts our homeported cruises which would stop at a Canadian port, per the Passenger Vessel Services Act, on their Alaska itineraries.”
Stebbin Jones, maritime director for the Port of Seattle, added that there’s “a possibility of a limited cruise season in Seattle this year,” but did not elaborate on what that would mean.
Can Alaska’s delegation get a waiver to the Passenger Vessel Service Act?
“Upon hearing the announcement, we immediately reached out to Canadian and American agencies to try to understand the rationale behind this decision—particularly the duration of the ban. 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,” Alaska’s delegation said in a statement.
Juneau’s travel organization, Travel Juneau, sent a letter inviting the president and First Lady to visit Juneau, which voted heavily for Biden.
In other Biden news, on Thursday night, the U.S. Senate voted on an amendment to support the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been cancelled by the Biden Administration, costing thousands of jobs in both America and Canada.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) put forward the amendment, which is largely symbolic, since the president has the authority to cancel the project. Biden’s move to cancel the cross-border project has soured U.S.-Canada relations at a time when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leads a minority Parliament that could be toppled at any time by the opposition.