Serge Abel-Normandin and Michael Pihach
In the search of a solution to allow a cruise season in Alaska this year, prominent members of the United States Congress are suggesting a compromise in Canada: that ships can call at Canadian ports without disembarking passengers there.
Both members of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Democrat Peter DeFazio (representative from Oregon) and Republican Sam Graves (representative from Missouri) wrote a letter introducing this option to the Ambassador of Canada to the United States Kirsten Hillman.
DeFazio and Graves argue that Canada's decision to ban Canadian waters until 2022, which wipes out the Alaskan cruise season, jeopardizes the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians and risks to cause economic disaster.
READ MORE: HAL, Princess, Seabourn cancel 2021 Canada/Alaska cruises
Claiming that it is as much their duty to look after public health as it is the economy, politicians should note that the cruise industry generates economic activity of $2.85 billion USD and 53,000 jobs in American regions affected by the Canadian ban (Alaska, Washington State, Great Lakes and New England) and nearly $1.5 billion and 30,000 jobs in Canada.
A mutually acceptable solution?
"...we would like to encourage the government of Canada to work with the U.S. government and industry stakeholders to find a mutually agreeable solution," reads the letter.
READ MORE: Disappointing, harsh, unfair: Industry reacts to Canada’s one-year cruise ban
This mutually-acceptable solution, they argue, could be for Canada to amend its interim order so as to allow cruise ships to comply with the requirements of U.S. maritime law by allowing stops in Canada without disembarking passengers.
"It is our hope that this solution would both address the important health concerns of Canadian authorities and allow cruises to resume with the approval of U.S. government authorities when it is deemed safe to do so," the politicians wrote.
CLIA issued a statement to thank Peter DeFazio and Sam Graves for their leadership on this issue.
READ MORE: “Unacceptable”: Alaska is angry at Canada for extending cruise ban to 2022
Meanwhile, several major cruise lines have cancelled 2021 itineraries for cruises in Alaska and sailings that depart from or conclude in a Canadian port.
Holland America Line, Princess and Seabourn all announced suspensions this week, while outlining next steps for impacted customers.
Canada's recently extended its ban on cruise vessels carrying 100 people or more until February 28, 2022, next year.
"As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada's transportation system remains safe," Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said on Feb. 4. "Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems."
The news took several in the industry by surprise, and even prompted an angry letter from politicians in Alaska.
"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," wrote Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young in a letter on Feb. 5.
“We expect more from our Canadian allies."
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today