Holland America Volendam carries passengers from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska for scenic tours. A 19th century U.S. shipping law has required foreign vessels to stop at a B.C. port in between. (Holland America Line)

Holland America Volendam carries passengers from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska for scenic tours. A 19th century U.S. shipping law has required foreign vessels to stop at a B.C. port in between. (Holland America Line)

Seattle-Alaska cruise ships gear up to bypass B.C. ports this summer

Ottawa’s COVID-19 ban until March 2022 pushes U.S. to act

Holland America Line wasted no time offering bookings for July on its restored Seattle-Alaska cruises, after a law dropping the requirement for a stop at B.C. ports was unanimously passed by U.S. politicians and sent to President Joe Biden to be enacted.

“The wait is over!” Holland America’s website proclaimed after both parties in the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act. “2021 Alaska cruises begin sailing July 24th.”

Alaska Congressman Don Young taunted B.C. Premier John Horgan on Twitter after the measure was quickly passed May 20, quoting Horgan’s comment in March that the likelihood of action by the bitterly divided U.S. Congress “is remote in good times, much less in times of crisis.”

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and other U.S. politicians worked to save the 2021 cruise ship season after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government surprised them by announcing that foreign cruise ships would not be allowed to dock in Canadian ports until March of 2022. They wrote to Trudeau in February, asking for an exemption to allow stops in B.C. with no passengers allowed off, to meet the requirements of a 19th century U.S. law preventing foreign-built ships from travelling directly from one U.S. port to another.

RELATED: Victoria Harbour Authority worries about cruise future

RELATED: Canada-U.S. border closure extended again to June 21

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond said her fears that the U.S. policy change that may become permanent were reinforced when she visited a Government Street tourist shop in downtown Victoria this week. Cruise ship passengers were a mainstay of Victoria’s tourism, as well as the main traffic source for terminals in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Some U.S. politicians are already advocating moving on from the 1886 Passenger Vessel Services Act, designed to protect sailing ship owners from foreign competition.

“We raised this issue months ago with the premier and his minister, and in fact at the time, I’m not even sure they understood the issue we were talking about,” Bond said. “It’s an industry that is responsible for 20,000 jobs, $2.2 billion in the economy of our province, so we are deeply concerned about the reaction that we got when we raised that issue, and we will continue to press the government and this premier to do his job when it comes to standing up for British Columbia.”

Tourism Minister Melanie Mark has repeatedly said B.C. has pressed Transport Canada to ease the ban, but even “technical stops” with no passengers allowed have not been allowed. Earlier in the pandemic, B.C. also had no success persuading Transport Canada to allow B.C. Ferries passengers to stay in their vehicles in lower decks.

“We are a magnet,” Mark told the B.C. legislature May 20, moments after B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong informed MLAs that the U.S. House or Representatives had just passed the Alaska tourism law. “We’re a destination of choice for cruise ships to come from Seattle. On their itinerary, they love coming to Victoria.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsCoronavirusCruise Ships

Just Posted

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Justine Keefer’s Cedar Elementary School Grade 6/7 class put together a student paper, as part of a school project. Pictured here Andrew Gregory, left, Felix Leduc, Addison Armstrong, Lucia Walker and Anise Dick. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Cedar Elementary School students create their own newspaper

Grade 6/7 class publishes Wolf Pack News as part of language arts and social studies

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements’ invention La Méduse (the Jellyfish) removes oil from the ocean. The invention was one of 15 out of 700 inventions submitted to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Little Inventors contest. (Cole Schisler photo)
‘Little Inventors’ from Ladysmith showcased in national science challenge

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements were one of 15 finalists in the Little Inventors Challenge

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read