Alaska & Yukon Tours on the cruise ship ballot initatives: looking at the numbers

    Alaska & Yukon Tours is a travel agency based out of Juneau, Alaska

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Nate Vallier, president and owner of Alaska & Yukon Tours, talked to News of the North about their estimate for the effects of the proposed ballot initiatives that would limit cruise ships in Juneau. For this report, they used 2022 cruise schedules.

    The first initiative would limit cruise ships from coming to Juneau from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Vallier said that if this were to pass this October, there would be immediate effects for the 2022 cruise ship season.

    "It would affect roughly 32 percent of the cruise traffic, which represents 37 percent of the passengers," Vallier said. He added that the way the schedules are set up in 2022, ships are aiming to arrive by 1 p.m. and if they were forced to leave by 7 p.m., that would give them less than 8 hours in port. "That means a very short window for them to be in Juneau," he said.

    He also added that if ships are subject to shorter times in port, then they would be using extra fuel to sail longer between ports. Vallier said he does not understand the initiative from an environmental perspective.

    In a written report by Alaska & Yukon Tours, they said they "would prefer to see something closer to 9:00PM hour, if not later for ships that meet certain environmental standards or capacity limits, if we are forced to maintain these types of hours."

    As for the second initiative, which would create "ship-free Saturdays," Vallier said those are "weak days" anyway; there is already reduced traffic on Saturdays. Vallier said that something closer to a ship-free Saturday could be achieved by conversations with companies such as Norwegian Cruise Lines, as opposed to an amendment to the charter.

    He added that this initiative would affect smaller, luxury cruises that often come in on Saturday. "Especially the Seven Seas and Silversea cruise lines," he said. "These ships have between 300 and 800 passengers on board.

    "These are people who come into our community, spend a lot of money, and are here for quite a bit," Vallier said.

    The third initiative would limit cruise ships over 100,000 gross tonnage, starting in 2026. "That one kind of blows our mind because most of the new ships coming online are over that weight," Vallier said. "If they're trying to get rid of the mega-ships, well, number one we don't get those, but we think there's a better way to approach this angle and that is working with the cruise lines."

    Several ships that come to Juneau are "pretty heavy," including ships up to 160,000 tons. "Those are big ships but they're also brand-new and efficient," he said. He also added that most new ships are more environmentally friendly than older, smaller ones.

    Vallier said the 100,000-ton limit doesn't make sense if it would ban the Grand Princess, at 107,000 tons, but not others that are 99,000.

    "It wipes out 64 percent of Norwegian Cruise Lines' capacity," Vallier said.

    The report said "lines will either avoid Juneau entirely, or reduce their Alaska footprint and find other new homes for the ships - therefore affecting an even larger swath of the Alaska economy" if this weight limit were put in place.

    Alaska & Yukon Tours concluded in the report that the combined effects of the three initiatives, if enacted, would affect 422 sailings, or 66.5%.

    The initiatives are currently in the petition phase. Each must garner close to 3,000 signatures to be placed before voters on the October ballot.

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