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Who actually benefits from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA)?


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I was watching the latest update from Gary Bembridge about the resumption of cruising in other countries.  They are starting to resume cruises for residents of their country where the cruise only calls in at ports within that country.  The UK, Italy, Germany, and Norway were given as examples.

 

Regarding the resumption of cruising in the US Gary made the point that PVSA requires that a ship call at a foreign port if it embarks passengers from an American port.   This means that the US does not have control over the safety protocols and efforts in place to fight covid at the foreign ports and so the CDC is not keen to allow cruising to resume.

 

 On the US west coast the PVSA means that cruises to Hawaii from San Francisco stop in at Ensenada and Alaskan cruises stop in at Victoria BC.  I might be missing something, but this does not seem to achieve much.  Ensenada is a port that many on CruiseCritic say they don't bother getting off the ship if they have been there before, and the detour adds considerable mileage to the  trip.

 

Given all of this, what is the true benefit of the PVSA?   Foreign flagged vessels are already carrying passengers from American ports, so if the goal is to prevent that, then it is not being achieved. 

 

Am I missing something?

 

 

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1 minute ago, Smokeyham said:

I was watching the latest update from Gary Bembridge about the resumption of cruising in other countries.  They are starting to resume cruises for residents of their country where the cruise only calls in at ports within that country.  The UK, Italy, Germany, and Norway were given as examples.

 

Regarding the resumption of cruising in the US Gary made the point that PVSA requires that a ship call at a foreign port if it embarks passengers from an American port.   This means that the US does not have control over the safety protocols and efforts in place to fight covid at the foreign ports and so the CDC is not keen to allow cruising to resume.

 

 On the US west coast the PVSA means that cruises to Hawaii from San Francisco stop in at Ensenada and Alaskan cruises stop in at Victoria BC.  I might be missing something, but this does not seem to achieve much.  Ensenada is a port that many on CruiseCritic say they don't bother getting off the ship if they have been there before, and the detour adds considerable mileage to the  trip.

 

Given all of this, what is the true benefit of the PVSA?   Foreign flagged vessels are already carrying passengers from American ports, so if the goal is to prevent that, then it is not being achieved. 

 

Am I missing something?

 

 

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You’re missing the obvious.

Like the Jones Act, the PVSA is not meant to make things better for (or easier for) or for any other benefit to non-US maritime businesses.

 

These Acts are meant solely to protect the interests of American maritime companies and unions.
 

As specifically regards the PVSA, it prevents foreign flagged vessels from pursuing (or securing) lucrative/direct routing among only US ports.  This type of routing is available only to ships built in the US and crewed by American union labor. And, of course, any attempt to change these laws would be met by additional hostility from supportive unions working at US ports (e.g., longshoremen).

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Thanks, and a good point about the purpose of the Act.  However, since there is no longer long distance passenger services between ports by sea (except for cruise ships) then I am not sure the Act serves a purpose.   

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5 minutes ago, Smokeyham said:

Thanks, and a good point about the purpose of the Act.  However, since there is no longer long distance passenger services between ports by sea (except for cruise ships) then I am not sure the Act serves a purpose.   

No US Maritime Union would ever allow that thesis to be tested.

In any case, do you realize that what you are suggesting would open the door to all sorts of non-US owned/operated ferry services at every US Coastal location and all river cruising on US waters? Also, do you honestly think that foreign flagged vessels wouldn’t jump at the chance of eliminating throwaway ports like Ensenada?

 

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5 minutes ago, Essiesmom said:

There is also the safety issue for passengers and crew, which has been explained ad infinitude here by @chengkp75 in the many, many threads that have been started recently.  EM

The good news is that all ships, regardless of flag, are subject to the same worldwide IMO regulations (e.g., SOLAS). The bad news is their consistent application/assessment from country to country.

Interested in this subject and enjoy great “sea stories” related to it (that are not fiction)? Read


The Outlaw Sea
 by William Langewiesche
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51 minutes ago, 1025cruise said:

The PVSA applies to more than just cruise ships. Think passenger ferries, etc. 

 

Thank you.  It's the PVSA, not the CVSA.

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1 hour ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

The good news is that all ships, regardless of flag, are subject to the same worldwide IMO regulations (e.g., SOLAS).

However, as our friend chengkp75 often reminds us, the US has some safety-related regulations that are more stringent than SOLAS and US-flagged ships must meet those more stringent rules.

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1 hour ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

You’re missing the obvious.

Like the Jones Act, the PVSA is not meant to make things better for (or easier for) or for any other benefit to non-US maritime businesses.

 

These Acts are meant solely to protect the interests of American maritime companies and unions.
 

As specifically regards the PVSA, it prevents foreign flagged vessels from pursuing (or securing) lucrative/direct routing among only US ports.  This type of routing is available only to ships built in the US and crewed by American union labor. And, of course, any attempt to change these laws would be met by additional hostility from supportive unions working at US ports (e.g., longshoremen).

Tell me how the Acts protect US flag ship owners, when they are required to spend over 3 times as much in operating cost as their foreign flag competitor.  As for "lucrative" direct routing among US ports, that is strictly a fantasy these days.  Cruise lines know that there is little benefit to their bottom lines regarding US only itineraries, which is why they don't pursue any changes to the PVSA.  They also know that if allowed into the PVSA market, they will most likely have to meet those requirements that drive up the operating costs of US flag ships, so their profits will plummet on those routes.  For cargo ships, the Harbor Maintenance Fee imposed by CBP makes it more expensive to ship cargo directly from one US port to another by ship than it is by road.  Even though road and rail shipping use more fuel per ton than shipping, the fact that US ships moving cargo within the US must pay the Harbor Maintenance Fee when the cargo is loaded, and again when it is discharged, and this prices US coastal freight out of the picture.  Maritime industry has been lobbying for decades for a "short shipping" legislation to remove the HMF from at least one port, which would lessen the pollution and the stress on US road/rail infrastructure by promoting US coastal shipping.

 

And, as I've noted many times, the PVSA pre-dates US maritime labor organizations, and was enacted in direct response to safety issues on passenger vessels (which were catching fire and exploding frequently at the time) in the US.

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19 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

Tell me how the Acts protect US flag ship owners, when they are required to spend over 3 times as much in operating cost as their foreign flag competitor.  As for "lucrative" direct routing among US ports, that is strictly a fantasy these days.  Cruise lines know that there is little benefit to their bottom lines regarding US only itineraries, which is why they don't pursue any changes to the PVSA.  They also know that if allowed into the PVSA market, they will most likely have to meet those requirements that drive up the operating costs of US flag ships, so their profits will plummet on those routes.  For cargo ships, the Harbor Maintenance Fee imposed by CBP makes it more expensive to ship cargo directly from one US port to another by ship than it is by road.  Even though road and rail shipping use more fuel per ton than shipping, the fact that US ships moving cargo within the US must pay the Harbor Maintenance Fee when the cargo is loaded, and again when it is discharged, and this prices US coastal freight out of the picture.  Maritime industry has been lobbying for decades for a "short shipping" legislation to remove the HMF from at least one port, which would lessen the pollution and the stress on US road/rail infrastructure by promoting US coastal shipping.

 

And, as I've noted many times, the PVSA pre-dates US maritime labor organizations, and was enacted in direct response to safety issues on passenger vessels (which were catching fire and exploding frequently at the time) in the US.

I bow to your practical knowledge regarding “company” behavior. Yet, I also understand age-old union (any industry) thinking based on “give an inch- lose a foot.” That original thinking had nothing to do with unions doesn’t mean they don’t have influence now.

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To answer the OP directly, you must first understand what the legal definition of a "passenger" vessel is, and that is any vessel that carries more than 12 passengers for hire.  So, who benefits?  The tens of thousands of US citizens working for the 220 ferry operators across 37 states, as well as those working for water taxis, commuter boats, dinner cruises, casino boats, sight seeing and whale watching boats, and even large charter fishing boats.  In aggregate, this is a couple of hundred thousand jobs, adding tens of millions of dollars to both the US tax rolls, and the US economy.  All US citizens and residents benefit from the PVSA, since it makes all these domestic vessels subject to USCG regulations, which are some of the most stringent in the world with regards to ship construction, ship equipment, crew training, certification, and competency, and oversight inspection.

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1 hour ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

I bow to your practical knowledge regarding “company” behavior. Yet, I also understand age-old union (any industry) thinking based on “give an inch- lose a foot.” That original thinking had nothing to do with unions doesn’t mean they don’t have influence now.

I'm always surprised by how people believe that maritime labor is an all powerful entity.  That may have been the case 60-100 years ago, but for the last 40 years it has not been the case.  Our membership rolls are so small that we are hardly a rounding error within the organized labor entities, and ship owners are far and away more powerful than the unions.

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

I'm always surprised by how people believe that maritime labor is an all powerful entity.  That may have been the case 60-100 years ago, but for the last 40 years it has not been the case.  Our membership rolls are so small that we are hardly a rounding error within the organized labor entities, and ship owners are far and away more powerful than the unions.

But, then there are teamsters, ILWU...

A little rallying can draw support and make even small unions strong with support. Could be a can of worms.


But, I trust that we agree that the PVSA isn’t going anywhere.

 

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12 hours ago, chengkp75 said:

I'm always surprised by how people believe that maritime labor is an all powerful entity.  That may have been the case 60-100 years ago, but for the last 40 years it has not been the case.  Our membership rolls are so small that we are hardly a rounding error within the organized labor entities, and ship owners are far and away more powerful than the unions.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. 
 

In your previous post, you said there were hundreds of thousands of jobs to protect. Here you say it is a small number of those people who are in the union. Am I understanding that correctly?

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21 minutes ago, Pudgesmom said:

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. 
 

In your previous post, you said there were hundreds of thousands of jobs to protect. Here you say it is a small number of those people who are in the union. Am I understanding that correctly?

Most of the PVSA fleet are not union employees.  The major maritime unions represent the sea-going mariners.  The "brown water" mariners (rivers and harbors), that man the small vessels that represent the majority of PVSA jobs are not unionized (there is the Inland Boatman's Union on the West Coast, but this represents only the deck and engine crew, not the hotel crew).  There are also the shore based personnel in the companies that work the PVSA trade (ferries, tours, casinos, etc) whose jobs could be outsourced if the vessels no longer need to be US owned.  So, for the most part, the PVSA fleet is not represented by organized labor.  Even the small cruise ship operators of US flag ships (American Cruise Line, Uncruise, Alaska Dream Cruise, etc) that are looking to benefit from a monopoly on Alaska this season are not unionized.

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13 hours ago, chengkp75 said:

I'm always surprised by how people believe that maritime labor is an all powerful entity.  That may have been the case 60-100 years ago, but for the last 40 years it has not been the case.  Our membership rolls are so small that we are hardly a rounding error within the organized labor entities, and ship owners are far and away more powerful than the unions.

Because the longshoremen seem powerful, a lot of people assume that all maritime unions are powerful. It’s the only one they ever hear about in the news. 
An aside on the longshoremen; one of the local dock operators was talking about the increase in longshoremen pay. Someone mentioned that over a certain number of years the pay had tripled.  The operator replied that wages had tripled, but the tonnage moved had increased 10 times. Do the math.

Enjoy

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16 hours ago, Smokeyham said:

Thanks, and a good point about the purpose of the Act.  However, since there is no longer long distance passenger services between ports by sea (except for cruise ships) then I am not sure the Act serves a purpose.  

 

To answer your question as to 'who benefits'.

 

My answer is Canada and Mexico.   Specifically Vancouver, Victoria and Ensenada because of the redundant trips required by the PVSA stops,  whether it be distant or foreign port.

 

Our longshoreman are losing out in San Diego and Seattle,   big time.

Our supply chain vendors are losing out in San Diego and Seattle,  big time.

 

PVSA is wonderful for the rest of the "PVSA fleet"  (tankers and freighters and ferries) but for cruising it does not contribute,  in fact it hurts significantly economically.    I'm sure it serves a purpose for tankers and freighters and they can keep their portion of PVSA,   the cruising part needs to be split out.

 

PVSA costs every cruiser who sails from the US at least 1 day in value.  It adds up.

It puts port fees, taxes,  revenue and labor in the hands of foreign ports and keeps it away from US ports.

 

 

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56 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

Most of the PVSA fleet are not union employees.  The major maritime unions represent the sea-going mariners.  The "brown water" mariners (rivers and harbors), that man the small vessels that represent the majority of PVSA jobs are not unionized (there is the Inland Boatman's Union on the West Coast, but this represents only the deck and engine crew, not the hotel crew).  There are also the shore based personnel in the companies that work the PVSA trade (ferries, tours, casinos, etc) whose jobs could be outsourced if the vessels no longer need to be US owned.  So, for the most part, the PVSA fleet is not represented by organized labor.  Even the small cruise ship operators of US flag ships (American Cruise Line, Uncruise, Alaska Dream Cruise, etc) that are looking to benefit from a monopoly on Alaska this season are not unionized.

 

Same up here, all of my crews were unionised, as were the tugs (even the Masters), but most of the small operators, were non-union.

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36 minutes ago, ronrythm said:

Because the longshoremen seem powerful, a lot of people assume that all maritime unions are powerful. It’s the only one they ever hear about in the news. 
An aside on the longshoremen; one of the local dock operators was talking about the increase in longshoremen pay. Someone mentioned that over a certain number of years the pay had tripled.  The operator replied that wages had tripled, but the tonnage moved had increased 10 times. Do the math.

Enjoy

As a kid, several of my uncles were ILA (International Longshoremen Association) members on the Brooklyn docks. Suffice to say: “They ate well.”

The picture many folks have of this union (and perhaps the ILWU on the west coast) harkens back to Marlon Brando’s cinema performance in “On The Waterfront.”

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22 minutes ago, JRG said:

PVSA is wonderful for the rest of the "PVSA fleet"  (tankers and freighters and ferries)

First off, again you show your lack of understanding of the PVSA.  It has absolutely nothing to do with tankers and freighters, that would be the Jones Act.  And, as I've said before, due to the US being signatory to various international conventions, some of them pretty important, like SOLAS and MARPOL, the US law has to mimic the language in those conventions, where a "passenger vessel" is defined as "any vessel carrying more than 12 passengers for hire".  So, unless you propose that the US renounce SOLAS, you cannot separate the cruise ships from the ferries and dinner cruise boats.

 

CLIA knows that if they got permission to sail PVSA itineraries, it would cost them far more than they would benefit, since the workers would have to have work visas, be paid US wages, follow US labor laws, and most likely be required to meet the more stringent USCG regulations for US flag vessels.

 

And, your article is written by an "intellectual property lawyer" and an "economic policy advisor", neither one of which advertises any experience in maritime commerce or safety.

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7 minutes ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

As a kid, several of my uncles were ILA (International Longshoremen Association) members on the Brooklyn docks. Suffice to say: “They ate well.”

The picture many folks have of this union (and perhaps the ILWU on the west coast) harkens back to Marlon Brando’s cinema performance in “On The Waterfront.”

And there are ways to get "around" the longshoremen, by using non-public docks and facilities.  This is why tankers have been traditionally non-union, though these days only the deck officers remain non-union, since the oil terminals own their own docks and set their own rules.  The longshoremen's unions only control public (local, state, or federally owned) docks.  They will refuse to work any ship, regardless of flag, if it has non-union crew onboard.  This is why nearly every nation either has a union for sea-going crew, or a "national agency" that acts like a union.

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14 hours ago, chengkp75 said:

Our membership rolls are so small that we are hardly a rounding error within the organized labor entities, and ship owners are far and away more powerful than the unions.

In addition to the labor dimension, is there a national security/defense aspect to either the Jones Act or PSVA?  It seems that national security might be part of the rationale behind these rules.

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