New ‘devastating’ offer to make cruise ships bypass Victoria for good

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Victoria’s cruise ship industry would be devastated if an Alaskan senator did whatever he wanted and made permanent an exemption that allows large cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports, the authority chief said Port of Greater Victoria.

Ian Robertson said the new legislation proposed by Senator Lisa Murkowski, which would permanently exempt large cruise ships from the Passenger Ship Services Act for U.S.-Alaska cruises, would virtually kill the industry on the island.

The law prohibits foreign-flagged ships from traveling directly between U.S. ports, meaning that before the pandemic, cruise ships typically called in Canadian cities such as Victoria and Vancouver en route to Alaska.

“It would be devastating if this legislation were to see the light of day,” he said, noting that the cruise industry brings in about $ 143 million a year to the local economy. “Yes, some ships would still call in Victoria, but it would be a fraction of what we have now. “

Earlier this year, US legislation introduced by Alaska lawmakers was approved, temporarily allowing cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports en route to Alaska for the 2021 cruise season. Lawmakers wanted to save some of the game. of the cruise season after Ottawa banned cruise ships from Canadian waters due to the pandemic.

The threat of ships bypassing Canada and heading straight for Alaska has been widely dismissed as unlikely by the provincial and federal governments, but Robertson hopes that position will change.

There is increasing pressure in the United States to change the law. Utah Senator Mike Lee pushed for the US Senate to permanently change the law allowing foreign-flagged cruise ships to travel directly between US ports, while Alaska Congressman Don Young, introduced similar legislation, and now Alaska’s senior senator has weighed in. also.

In a statement, Murkowski said the Passenger Ship Services Act was “well-intentioned to protect American jobs and businesses,” but had the unintended consequence of placing Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government. when it closed its ports to cruise ships.

“It almost wiped out the economies of Southeast Alaska, as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors, but unable because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stopovers in their ports to meet PVSA requirements, ”she said. “We cannot let this happen again. “

Robertson called on the city, province and country to take the threat seriously. “We need everyone on the bridge and do all we can to make sure this legislation does not get passed. “

He said the province and industry must pressure the federal government to engage the United States on the issue, although this is complicated by the federal election campaign, with election day Monday. “So far, I have been satisfied with the response of the various [provincial] ministries on this, but now we’re both waiting to see what happens on Monday. “

Provincial Transport Minister Rob Fleming said the cruise ship industry is vital to tourism and that Murkowski’s bill “concerns British Columbia and Canadians and we take it seriously.”

“We have done everything we can to ensure that B.C.’s cruise ship industry comes back with a vengeance,” he said, noting that the province is leading a cruise ship restart committee that is meeting every month.

He said the province has worked with industry to successfully advocate for a safer and faster reopening of its ports, which will reopen in November, four months earlier than the federal government’s initial plan.

Prime Minister John Horgan highlighted the importance of the cruise industry in British Columbia with Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and he did the same with Federal Minister of Transportation, Fleming said. “We have also raised our concerns about this legislation to our Embassy in Washington, DC and will continue to do so.”

Paul Nursey, Managing Director of Destination Greater Victoria, said he was encouraged by Fleming’s commitment to the issue.

“We cannot leave this slide, as we saw earlier this year,” he said. “It cannot be taken lightly and must involve government at all levels. “

Robertson said that an amendment to the law in the United States is unlikely to affect the 2021 cruise season, given the channels that legislation must travel before it is approved.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

© Colonist of the time of copyright


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