‘Surprised and disappointed’: Port of Victoria CEO says US cruise ship law would have ‘devastating’ impact in British Columbia

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Two US bills proposed by a congressman and a senator to allow cruise ships bound for Alaska to bypass Canadian ports would have a “devastating” effect on the economy of British Columbia, said the head of the Victoria Harbor Authority.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday proposed a bill that would allow cruise ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers and going to Alaska a permanent exemption from the Passenger Ship Services Act (PVSA) .

By law, foreign-built ships are not permitted to carry passengers between two US ports non-stop in a foreign country.

“[The act] has had the unintended consequence of putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government, ” she said during remarks at the Southeastern Conference’s annual meeting.

“It nearly wiped out the economies of Southeast Alaska as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors, but unable to do so because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stopovers in their ports to meet PVSA requirements. We can’t let that happen again. ”

Under the bill, foreign cruise ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers can bypass Canadian ports if they wish.

Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbor Authority, said the bill would hurt the economy of Victoria and British Columbia.

“I am both surprised and disappointed,” Robertson said in an interview. “It would be devastating.”

The cruises bring in about $ 143 million a year to Victoria’s economy and create hundreds of jobs, he added.

But Robertson added that he believed the province was taking the threat of economic impact more seriously than it did in the spring when a bill was quickly introduced and passed in the House of Representatives. United States aimed at adjusting the same law.

Prime Minister John Horgan first said at the time that the legislation was a “coup” that was not likely to be passed quickly, before he did and he arranged meetings with officials Americans.

Cruise ships were banned during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic over concerns about the spread of the virus, but the ban is expected to be lifted on November 1.

Thousands of passengers were expected at Canada Place over the July long weekend. (The Canadian Press)

Robertson said the next federal government must take the issue seriously after Monday’s election.

“This is a file that requires all hands on deck,” he said. “There has to be advocacy at the highest level.”

Horgan said on Friday he was in talks with Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, about the situation.

“We have worked with her to ensure that congressional delegations understand the importance to British Columbia and to Canada-U.S. Relations that this passage is not limited to Seattle and Alaska. . “

He added that he would discuss the issue with the next prime minister after Monday’s election.

Horgan said he expected to hear from Hillman about his discussions with his U.S. counterparts on Monday.

British Columbia Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement he was working with industry leaders and his federal counterparts to raise awareness of the issue.

“The cruise ship industry is vital for tourism in British Columbia and for the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the regular arrival of ships,” he said.

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