A bill has been introduced by U.S. Senator, Mike Lee, that could be a detriment to the future of cruise ships stopping in British Columbia ports.
The bill is aimed at repealing and reforming the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (PVSA).
The PVSA requires all ships transporting passengers between U.S. ports to stop at a foreign port as part of each journey in order to remain compliant.
Ships sailing from Washington to Alaska are required to make a stop in Vancouver or Victoria as part of their itinerary. Another example cruises from California to Hawaii must stop in Ensenada, Mexico.
During the pandemic, Transport Canada has closed off all ports to foreign ships, which has impacted not only the cruising industry but also the tourism industry on Vancouver Island and other ports along the Alaskan routes.
Sen. Lee had some strong words against the PVSA, believing the law should be removed in order to preserve American jobs.
“The PVSA is bad news,” said Sen. Lee. “This arcane law benefits Canada, Mexico, and other countries who receive increased maritime traffic at the expense of American workers in our coastal cities, towns, and ports. Reducing demand for jobs and travel opportunities here in the U.S. is the opposite of ‘America First.’ And in the context of ocean liners, this ‘protectionist’ law is literally protecting no one, as there hasn’t been a cruise ship built domestically in over half a century. The PVSA is bad economics and bad law, and it’s far past time that Congress reconsider it.”
At this time the bill has been tabled and it is unclear if there is support for it to become legislation or not.
If the requirement for ships to stop at a foreign port was eliminated, it could mean a significant reduction of cruise traffic to B.C. ports, which would be another major blow to tourism.
In response to the bill, B.C.’s Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told CHEK News that it is a great concern that this legislation has been proposed.
“I have been engaged with the Federal government on this issue for some time and am requesting urgent meetings with the federal Minister of Transportation and the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.,” Fleming told CHEK.
“We have also just spoken to the Prime Minister’s Office about this. This is not what cruise ship travellers want: Americans and international tourists want to visit Canadian destinations, and it enriches the experience cruise operators can offer to their passengers.”
The BC Liberals posted on social media, in response to Sen. Lee’s bill, saying, “This would be catastrophic for BC.”
Regardless of the bill’s outcome, cruise ships have been banned by Transport Canada for the entire 2021 season.