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Another new law?


Dream Fish

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There was a long thread about this on the Princess board.

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=671772

 

Basically some in the US government, rightly or wrongly, are at odds with the cruise lines for making token stops in Mexico en route to Hawaii. In at least one case, the ship didn't even dock in Mexico - some pilot boat met the cruise ship offshore, they handed off some paperwork and off the cruise ship went to Hawaii. Perhaps adhering to the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.

 

I believe it all stems from NCL America pulling out of the HI cruise market since they can't be competitive with other cruise lines to HI.

 

We will see how it develops.

 

John

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First of all, this is a PROPOSAL, not a new law.

 

It is obviously aimed at the NCL monopoly on Hawaii through a sweetheart deal with the US Senate. I strongly suspect it will eventually work itself out to a deal prohibiting the "service" stop at Ensenada enroute to Hawaii.

 

The Hawaii cruises are a minor part of most cruise lines packages and they will either just switch to departures from a Mexican port or give them up.

 

I am fairly certain that Alaskan interests and the cruise lines will get exemptions for Seattle departures. It would be terribly foolish for the US government to force all that Alaska cruise business to Vancouver.

 

It is, however, well worth watching and commenting on.

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I don't see that it would impact Alaska at all - it will "merely" eliminate Seattle as a departure point.

 

Murray

 

Both Alaska and Seattle will be the biggest losers of this political in-fight. If all cruiselines move their operations to Vancouver, I don't think Vancouver has the capacity to handle the extra influx. That means they will have to cut the number of departures significantly. It will be more expensive to departure from Vancouver than from Seattle for most US cruisers too. The volume of traffic will definitely drop. That's when Alaska will see the impact. Looks like NCL America will be the only winner of this whole game at the cost of passengers and local economies. I doubt this bill will ever get passed.

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It won't just affect Alaska and Hawaii. It will affect ALL departures of foreign flagged vessels from ANY US port if it is codified as currently written, and it looks as if it will be.

 

Such personages as the Governor and two US Senators from Maine, a number of mayors and Port Authority commissioners from around the country, tour operators, and the like are sufficiently concerned to have made comment on the proposed regulations. They make very interesting, and scary, reading on the Congressional Register comments website........

 

CLIA has now come out strongly against it, and both NCL and NCLA are member lines.

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Forgive my ignorance but could somebody explain a few things to me.

 

1.What is the reason that foreign flagged ships that leave from a U.S. port must visit a foreign port?

 

2.What is the reason for now extending the length of time required in a foreign port?

 

3.Wouldn't it be in the best interest of the US for the tourist dollars to be spent in the US?

 

What am I missing?

 

Ruth

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I sent off an email to the city desk of one of the local newspapers here asking if they were aware of this issue and if so when were they planning to run a story. Trouble is, yesterday the State Auditor's office released a report absolutely slamming the Port of Seattle for wasting taxpayer money - almost $100 million - through improper contracting practices over airport runways, etc. - so that has the media completely hypnotized, and probably the Port staff too, while meanwhile the PSA rule creeps along through the bureaucracy.

 

The impact of this rule change on the local economy can't be overstated. The whole hotel and tourist infrastructure of downtown Seattle has transformed itself in order to accommodate 20,000 additional visitors a week brought here by the cruise industry. If the rule goes through and is mindlessly enforced, you're talking about thousands of jobs and millions of dollars per week that would essentially be shifted to Vancouver from Seattle.

 

My suspicion is that the Port and its lobbyists know of the rule, but right now they're in the bunkers fending off phone calls from the press, so not especially eager to fight the feds on this "peripheral" issue, since the summer is still months away.

 

I've also written my congressman about this; alas he's also tied up with lawyers over a public disclosure flap from several years ago that has now ended with him owing a bunch of money to people whose "private" emails he outed (congressional corruption among the Rs several years ago.)

 

Asleep at the switch - your tax dollars not at work.

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I suspect we lost more american jobs than protecting ones with this century old law. Without it, one-way Alaska cruise can start or end in Seattle. Instead, we just force the business over to Vancouver. Same thing for Hawaii crusie, before NCL America is formed, we had to spend 3 days in order to get to Fanning island (which, by the way, was the highlight of our trip, so i am not complaining about the law :)).

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Gardyloo: Actually, both Mayor Nickels and the Port Commissioners DID respond with comments on the PVSA changes--strongly in opposition, for which I am glad. As for "Baghdad Jim", I imagine that he could care less:mad:. But they are all busy hiding from the press, you are likely right about that.

 

It would not be a pretty sight around here if these changes go through. Since comments closed this afternoon at 5 pm Eastern, I would imagine that there will be some further information passed down within the next several weeks. I am subscribed to Seatrade Insider, so will pass on anything that I see as it comes out.

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I'm not 100% clear on this law. In terms of Alaska cruises, it sounds like this would only effect roundtrips out of US ports. Am I correct? Would this law as it currently is written effect NB or SB cruises from/to Vancouver?

 

Thanks,

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I'm not 100% clear on this law. In terms of Alaska cruises, it sounds like this would only effect roundtrips out of US ports. Am I correct? Would this law as it currently is written effect NB or SB cruises from/to Vancouver?

 

Thanks,

 

It appears that you are correct. As the cruise does not start and end in the US, it probably would not be covered. Round trips starting and ending in Vancouver would probably also be OK.

 

However, it is highly questionable whether Vancouver has the infrastructure to support the huge number of cruises that would involve.

 

I continue to believe that the issue here is NCL's sweetheart deal on Hawaii cruises, and the law will concentrate on that and Alaska will get some sort of exemption.

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Will they cancel my cruise? Geez, I hope not, but I'm not totally optimistic, and my only option out of Vancouver round trip is pretty much NCL and I'm not of a mind to give them any of my money just about now (HAL's deposits are out of line for their product) after they started this.

 

If they were to give Alaska, Mexico, and Canada/New England an exemption, I would think that the cruise lines that are being targeted by this regulation (Princess, HAL, and X) would put up an unholy uproar. Plus, I don't really see DHS/CBP being all that magnanimous--their take on it would likely be "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," and apply it to ALL coastwise sailings.

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Not sure I agree that Vancouver could not handle all of the Alaska cruises,

at least as far as dock space goes. Last August, I count 55 ships in port for the

month at Canada Place and Ballantyne Pier. That left 19 empty spaces at

Ballantyne and 50 at Canada Place for the month. I don't believe that Seattle

had 69 cruise ship movements that month, did it?

This is also not counting the overflow dock at Ballantyne nor is it considering

an alternative dock for the pocket cruise ships now using Canada Place and

included in the above numbers.

The question would revolve around the infrastructure - taxis, busses, food and

beverage supply, bunkering capability. I think Vancouver could handle this.

 

There is also the option of cruises originating and terminating in Victoria, rather than

just doing the port stop. Again, just a matter of logistics.

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The Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) isn't exactly "Another new law..." It was enacted in 1886.

 

 

It's got to do with foreign vessels unfairly competing with US flagged vessels. Imagine how you would feel if you owned a US ship, and made your living operating an inter-island ferry in Hawaii. Along comes a cheaply built, cheap-to-run boat from some third world country stealing your passengers running the same route for 10% of the fare. Sure, you can compete on price, but the US ship has WAY higher overhead since there are minimum wage laws for US workers, insurance requirements that foreign vessels don't have to have, etc... Nevermind it costs WAY less to build the ship in Taiwan as it does in a US shipyard.

 

Fast forward to modern times, when the major cruise lines serving Alaska are US based, but operating foreign flagged ships. Now, if your cruise ship departs from Seattle and takes you to Alaska, that's a cruise solely between US ports. To get around that, Seattle based cruises can make a stop in Vancouver or Victoria, so that you're not just traveling from one US port to another. Problem is, it's been abused - as referenced with the "non-stop" port call in Mexico... So now US Customs is back to requiring enforcement to the letter of the law, which says in order to qualify as a foreign "port call", the time has to be 48 hours, or 50% of the total time spent is US ports. That reduces a typical 7 day Alaska cruise to 2 or 3 "sea days", at least 2 days in a Canadian port, and only leaves 1 or 2 days for ports in Alaska.

 

Of course, the cruise lines could just pay the penalty, but the way the lines gouge all of us already, I have a hard time imagining they'll be willing to pay the $300 per passenger transported for each and every cruise!

 

That's an excellent explanation of the law - which in my opinion serves no useful purpose 111 years after being enacted. Instead of being more strictly enforced, I don't understand why lawmakers aren't working to get rid of it.

 

I would be pretty nervous if I had already booked my cruise AND airfare out of Seattle. I think this is potentially a much bigger deal for many Alaska cruisers than last year's $50/pp head tax.

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I see from the above Anchorage article that Ted Stevens is asking for an exemption for Alaska, because of his position on the commerce committee. But also to be considered is that Inouye is CHAIRMAN of that committee, and he is the big proponent of the regulation change.

 

Gee, wonder how that will work out? Thinking like him--why would l give a senator from the opposing party, and from a state that is a huge competitor of Hawaii's for tourist dollars, such an exemption. (Yep, I'm afraid I'm a glass half empty person on this issue, sadly enough).

 

Hopefully they will get the final regulations published soon and we will know what we are up against. (It kind of upsets me that neither WA's governor nor senators even bothered to speak up on this issue, though some of our other legislators did--almost like they don't care).

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My hunch is that since Hawaii is mentioned so much in the draft reg (just not at the moment of truth in the last couple of paragraphs) that the final rule will stipulate that this applies to Hawaii itineraries only. That's a win-win for Inouye without aggravating the rest of the country.

 

Having Ted Stevens argue Alaska's case at this point is like getting a presidential endorsement from Dick Cheney.

 

Otherwise I suspect that the lobbyists will come down on Congress in the new year like locusts and some sort of estoppal will result. Congress can overturn CFRs but it's uncommon.

 

And just to reiterate - this isn't a new law, it's a new regulation implementing existing law.

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Which is why I think that they will have to implement it for all coastwise cruising (not that I want them to, at all, mind you), but to do otherwise would be selective enforcement. That would make the three target cruise lines most unhappy. If they enforce it for all coastwise itineraries, then NCL gets bitten with the same bug.

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I see from the above Anchorage article that Ted Stevens is asking for an exemption for Alaska, because of his position on the commerce committee. But also to be considered is that Inouye is CHAIRMAN of that committee, and he is the big proponent of the regulation change.

 

Gee, wonder how that will work out? Thinking like him--why would l give a senator from the opposing party, and from a state that is a huge competitor of Hawaii's for tourist dollars, such an exemption. (Yep, I'm afraid I'm a glass half empty person on this issue, sadly enough)

 

Inouye and Stevens are very close and scratch each others' backs all the time, as counterintuitive as that is. I believe AK and HI are #1 and #2 on the pork barrel list, so they find ways to make it work.

 

Also, I have complete confidence in the lobbying power of the cruise ship lines to get what they want.

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