In 2016, Senator Don Plett introduced two bills that sought to remove and replace the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), legislation first passed in 1953. The PVSA sets out the rules and regulations for passenger vessel services on the Canadian lakes and reservoirs.

Not long ago, there was a lot of outrage in Parliament when it was revealed that a private company was profiting off the back of taxpayers by charging passengers to be transported by a private vessel.  Massive lobbying by the private company saw a change in the law in the middle of the night, with the current law being put in place.  A bill has been introduced to repeal and reform the Passenger Vessel Services Act, with the hope of putting an end to this corporate tax evasion.  Posted by Allyn Kornblum at 9:47 AM

The Passenger Vessel Services Act, also known as PVS Act (and sometimes hated as the “PVS Act”) or the Passenger Vessels Act, is a Canadian law that regulates passenger ships on the Great Lakes. The PVS Act was introduced by the Liberal government in 1999, and was drafted to balance the needs of passengers and the large ship owners. The Liberal government amended the Act in 2011 to allow for the dismantling of the passenger ship fleet on the Great Lakes.

The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 has long been a thorn in the side of the cruise industry operating in the United States and has allowed neighboring countries to take advantage of it.

The law was meant to protect U.S. shipbuilding interests, but sends more ship traffic to countries like Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas, meaning the U.S. misses out on millions of dollars every year. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has introduced three bills to repeal and reform the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (PVSA), which he calls an outdated protectionist law that is harmful to American jobs and tourism.

No cruise ship has been built in the United States for half a century

The Passenger Vessel Maintenance Act was enacted in 1886 in conjunction with the Jones Act. While the Jones Act prohibits foreign vessels from carrying cargo between U.S. ports, the PVSA requires that all vessels carrying passengers between two or more U.S. ports (domestic voyages) be built and operated under the U.S. flag and manned by U.S. personnel.

Although the law made sense when the United States had a booming passenger ship industry, no other passenger ships were built in the United States after the SS Argentina was built in 1958. Even the Pride of America was only 40% built before the ship was finished in Germany.

Senator Mike Lee

Bills Introduced to Repeal and Reform the Passenger Vessel Services Act

This means that the PVSA is more of a drag on the US economy, as it prohibits ships from operating full-time in the US and invites neighboring countries to take full advantage of the need for ships to dock internationally.

Senator Mike Lee said: The PVSA is bad news. This opaque law favors Canada, Mexico and other countries that benefit from increased shipping traffic, at the expense of American workers in our coastal cities and ports. The decline in demand for jobs and travel opportunities here in the United States is the opposite of America First. And in the context of cruise ships, this protectionist law literally protects no one, as no domestic cruise ship has been built in over half a century. PVSA is bad for the economy and the law, and it’s high time Congress rethought it.

Alaska becomes atest case

The Passenger Vessel Services Act was challenged when Canada closed its borders to all cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers. This meant that foreign-flagged cruise ships based in the United States, which call at U.S. ports and support the local U.S. economy and communities, could not set sail because they had to call at Canada.

Photo credits : McLean Holloway /

Bills Introduced to Repeal and Reform the Passenger Vessel Services Act

The United States temporarily amended the law with the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act; however, a long-term solution must be found to protect U.S. interests in the cruise industry. To that end, Senator Lee has introduced three separate bills that would benefit the U.S. economy, cruise ships, and airlines with bases in the United States:

America’s Open Ports Act – repeals the PVSA and amends the coastal shipping regulations accordingly to allow all vessels meeting the requirements of U.S. law to transport passengers from a U.S. port to a U.S. port.

American Tourism Protection Act – exempts large passenger vessels (vessels with 800 or more passenger seats) from PVSA regulations and adjusts coastal navigation regulations accordingly, allowing these vessels to carry passengers from one U.S. port to another. This targeted approach will not harm the existing industry, as no cruise ship has been built in the US since 1958 (which meets the high standards of the PVSA).

U.S. Port Employment Protection Act – Eliminating the requirement that passenger ships sailing between U.S. ports be built in the United States, encouraging U.S. carriers to develop voyages that increase traffic and economic activity – and opportunities for port workers – in U.S. coastal cities.

The PSVA currently requires vessels to travel thousands of miles in some cases to comply with the law. Something the cruise lines want to avoid at all costs if they can. The repeal of this law would allow cruise lines to sail on U.S. routes to Hawaii without stopping in Kiribati or Ensenada, Mexico.

Alaska cruises would not be dependent on Canada and would not have to stop in Vancouver, and east coast cruises would go from Florida to Boston or New York, for example, without stopping in Canada.

The PVSA reduces the demand for U.S. port workers for dock maintenance and repair, reduces employment for workers in the domestic travel and hospitality industries, and does not help the U.S. shipbuilding industry due to the lack of large passenger ships.

Bills Introduced to Repeal and Reform the Passenger Vessel Services Act

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