Congress urges Canada to reevaluate banning cruises until 2022

A U.S. congressional committee has asked Canada to reevaluate its ban on cruises, which prohibits ships from sailing in Canadian waters until March 2022.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sent a letter to Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman, hoping to “encourage” the Canadian government to work with the U.S. government and the cruise industry to find a “mutually agreeable solution.”

In the letter, the committee expressed its “concern regarding the potential economic impact on local businesses and communities,” saying that “by closing Canadian ports to passenger vessels for another year, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians are at risk from more job losses and further economic devastation.”

Canada’s ban not only impacts ships in Canadian waters, it also puts a roadblock in the way of cruises in Alaska, New England, Washington State or the Great Lakes. Ocean cruise ships have not sailed in U.S. waters since last March.

U.S. maritime law requires international stops on ships flagged in foreign countries, which includes many major cruise lines’ ships. 

Because of this, many of the cruises scheduled to sail in U.S. waters in areas such as Alaska would need to stop at a port in Canada, which is not permitted by the country’s ban. Many cruise lines, including Holland America and Princess Cruises, have already canceled their Alaska seasons as a result. 

To address the situation, the committee suggested allowing stops at Canadian ports without passengers disembarking noting that could minimize COVID-19 risk Canada is concerned about. 

The letter is signed by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., , who is chair of the committee; ranking member Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., who is the chair of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation; ranking member Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, who is also on the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation; and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska..

Cruise Lines International Association, the leading cruise industry organization, thanked committee members for facilitating dialogue with the Canadian government, in a statement provided by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications for CLIA.

“CLIA looks forward to working with the Canadian and U.S. authorities on a solution that addresses the public health needs of Americans and Canadians alike, while responsibly restarting a critical economic driver for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” CLIA said.

This isn’t the first initiative taken by members of Congress in the face of the ban. Shortly after it was issued, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; and Rep. Young, issued a joint statement, explaining that the ban was “unexpected” and “unacceptable” since it came without warning.

“We expect more from our Canadian allies,” the statement said. “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.”

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