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Alaska cruise ship waiver bill passes Congress, heads to Biden for signing into law

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act passed by unanimous consent in both houses of Congress and now goes to President Biden for his signature
The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill to give foreign-flag cruise ships a temporary cabotage waiver, enabling them to operate in Alaska without a foreign stop.

The legislation, which earlier passed in the Senate, is on its way to President Biden for signing into law.

H.R. 1318, the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, passed by unnimous consent in the House where it was hailed by Alaska Rep. Don Young, its sponsor, as an opportunity to conserve the people and tourism industry of Southeast Alaska. 

'This season, cruise passengers will safely sail to our state to support Alaska's jobs and economy — not BC's,' Young tweeted, referring to neighboring British Columbia. 

PVSA waiver

The legislation waives the Passenger Vessel Services Act for as long as Canada's cruise ban is in place (currently, through February 2022). This would allow foreign-flag ships to transport passengers between Washington state and Alaska.

The bill is a hard-won victory for the Alaska congressional delegation, which has been working on all fronts — including diplomacy with Canada — to find a solution to the economic toll on port cities that rely on cruise tourism. 

Still working through CDC process

Cruise lines still have to get through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's conditional sailing order, and have estimated it takes 60 to 90 days to start up a ship. 

Executives like Harry Sommer, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, have stated that if cruising could start in Alaska by early to mid-July, it's 'absolutely' worth going.

A number of lines have ships on the US West Coast, standing by for possible operations this summer. 

See subsequent story 'Princess, Holland America, Carnival announce July cruises in Alaska'