The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that temporarily relieves cruise ships sailing in Alaska of the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for as long as Canada's cruise ban is in place.
The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, sponsored by Alaska's Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, sailed unanimously through the Senate last week.
President Biden is expected to sign the legislation when it lands on his desk.
The PVSA, a cabotage law enacted in 1886, requires foreign-flagged ships, which almost all large cruise vessels are, to stop in at least one foreign port when sailing between two U.S. ports. A ban on cruise ship calls in all Canadian ports, in place until Feb. 28, has effectively prohibited big-ship cruising in Alaska and put the 2022 season, which runs from June through September, in peril.
The legislation only applies to large cruise ships operating with passengers between the states of Washington and Alaska.
As per the legislation, the PVSA waiver would terminate either when Canada drops its cruise ban, or on March 31, 2022.
ASTA praised the bill's passage in the House and called on Biden to sign it "as soon as possible."
"While our members continue to face challenges and need additional support from the government, setting this framework for 2021 Alaska cruising is a big step in the right direction," ASTA said.
The PVSA was passed in the 19th century to protect U.S. shipbuilders and operators. The last large ocean cruise ship built in a U.S. shipyard was in 1958.