Alaska Legislature

Alaska joins anti-CDC, pro-cruise lawsuit launched by Florida

JUNEAU — The state of Alaska is joining Florida in a lawsuit that attempts to overturn public health restrictions on large cruise ships.

On Tuesday, the state filed a motion to intervene in the case, which is proceeding in a federal district court in Florida. The state’s documents were filed by a Florida law firm temporarily hired until a state attorney is licensed for the Florida court.

If the suit succeeds, large cruise ships would be able to begin sailing in the Lower 48 sooner than currently scheduled. Large ships traveling to Alaska would remain blocked by the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which requires a stop in Canada. Canada has halted large-ship cruise travel through February 2022.

“The state acknowledges that there is an additional hurdle for Alaska that does not exist in Florida — Canada shutting down its ports for the summer of 2021. But we need to fight this on all fronts,” said assistant attorney general Maria Bahr. “We continue to work with our congressional delegation and others to address the issue with closed borders into Canada and the Passenger Service Vessel Act.”

In a prepared statement, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said, “Cruise ships have demonstrated their ability to provide for the safety of passengers and crew, and Alaska has led the nation in vaccinations and low hospitalization rates. We deserve the chance to have tourism and jobs.”

In court documents, Alaska claims that COVID-19 mitigation measures imposed on the cruise industry by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are arbitrary, capricious and violate federal law.

Florida critics denounced Florida’s lawsuit as a political stunt unlikely to succeed: The federal government has broad powers to regulate interstate transportation.

If the lawsuit is unsuccessful, the CDC’s guidelines provide for a gradual return to regular sailing in the Lower 48 as soon as July, but there is no firm timeline.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.