Port Officials Rail Against New Cabotage Rules

Port authorities and business leaders are banding together to oppose a proposed federal law that, if passed, would mean longer port calls for foreign-flagged ships traveling between U.S. ports. The measure was introduced in November by the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection division.

Currently, foreign-flagged ships, which most cruise ships are, are required to make foreign stops between U.S. ports, but the proposed law would require the ships to remain in a foreign port for at least two days. Most cruise itineraries have ships docking in a port in the morning and disembark by late afternoon.

Port officials decry the measure because it could eliminate jobs and decrease tourist revenue at cruise terminals, not to mention be a bummer for cruisers. "It will affect U.S. cruise ports," said Maryland port administration director James White in Thursday's Baltimore Sun. "Who wants to stay days in port when you paid to be on a ship? You might as well fly there."

Most cruise ships favor being foreign-flagged because flagging a ship as American means having to pay higher wages for a U.S. crew and U.S. federal taxes and comply with other national restrictions.

There is one exception to the cabotage rule, and it allows three Norwegian Cruise Line to island-hop in Hawaii. However, NCL is dropping one of its ships, Pride of Hawaii, from the Hawaii rotation, citing lack of demand, which has been coupled with rumors of service issues. The ship is being redeployed to Europe.

While a rule change would most affect Alaska and West Coast cruises, it could also hamper Northeast cruises in New England and Canada. A decision should be made in the coming months. (DE)

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