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Feds looking to give U.S. cruising a bruising

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On December - 27 - 2007

CruisingCustoms and Border Protection (CBP) has written a proposal that sets out to ‘clarify’ the rules on what constitutes cabotage by foreign-flagged cruise lines. By definition cabotage is the exclusive right of a country to control the sea and air traffic within its borders.

The CBP states that is acting in response to concerns by the Maritime Administration that Norwegian Cruise Line America’s U.S.-flagged ships, and their U.S. crews, suffered “economic hardship” in Hawaii due to foreign-flagged cruise lines that were offering Hawaii cruises from the U.S. mainland that made only token stops in Ensenada, Mexico. The CBP said these “token” itineraries pose an “imminent threat” to the remaining U.S.-flag ships in Hawaii. The proposal suggests requiring stops at foreign points to be at least 48 hours and that port time in foreign ports must represent 50 percent of the itinerary’s total time in ports. If enacted the proposal could wreak havoc with cruise lines that use brief stops in Mexico on U.S.-Hawaii cruises. The change to clarify cabotage rules would affect the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which dates back to 1886 and prohibits foreign flag vessels from transporting passengers between ports in the U.S.

CLIA President Terry Dale says the proposal would affect virtually all cruise lines and a number of North and Central American countries as well as the Caribbean island nations. Additionally, Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin has asked the CBP to stop the proposal saying it would harm the Alaska tourism industry. “The proposed rule interpretation, aimed at Hawaiian coastwise cruises, would be a dramatic and abrupt shift in policy of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection if it were applied to Alaska cruises,” says Palin. She adds, “Taking something that is working well and changing it, much less on 30 days notice, is not reasonable public policy.”

View the CBP’s proposal here http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/E7-22788.pdf

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