Bill to speed resumption of cruise ship voyages blocked in U.S. Senate

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 9:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A bill introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan that sought to speed up when cruise ships can resume sailing was blocked Wednesday in the U.S. Senate.

The Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act, introduced by Sullivan and Florida Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, sought to revoke the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s conditional sailing order for the cruise industry.

“The CDC, Madam President, is dragging its feet,” Sullivan said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Sullivan pushed for quick approval of the legislation, which would have required the CDC to issue guidance for safely resuming summer cruises by July 4.

“They’re dithering. I have been meeting — my staff has been meeting with them certainly weekly. I have met twice with the CDC director,” Sullivan said. “And all we get is foot-dragging. All we get is excuses.”

Washington is another state that relies on cruise ships. Many cruises involving Alaska either start or end there. The industry supports 5,500 jobs and has an economic impact of $900 million to the local economies there.

Those numbers came from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), who opposed Sullivan’s measure.

“Those jobs and that impact on the local economy have been severely disrupted,” Murray said. “But we have to ensure the safety of our friends and our families on these cruises before they disembark.”

When Sullivan, Scott and Rubio attempted to advance the bill on the Senate floor, Murray objected, which blocked the bill from moving forward.

Rep. Don Young and Florida Rep. María Elvira Salazar have introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Only cruise ships that don’t sail to Alaska would be impacted by the measure.

The Passenger Vessel Service Act requires foreign-flagged ships to stop in nearby foreign ports like Canada before heading to Alaska.

Cruise ships aren’t the only area of travel facing a road bump this year. Driving across the Canadian border also remains an issue for Alaska residents.

Only essential travel is allowed across the border, and Canada and the U.S. extended the border closure through at least May 21. The Canadian Border Services Agency is quite clear on who will be allowed.

“All foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, must meet the travel exemptions and public health obligations as set out in the Orders in Council (OIC) that the CBSA applies related to COVID-19,” the CBSA said in a statement.

Essential workers, trade shipments, and approved temporary foreign workers are allowed to drive through Canada, but only if those people provide proof that where they’re going is where they live or work.

Visitors must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to enter Canada.

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