Find a way to save isle cruise industry
NCL America has decided to withdraw its second of three ships from Hawaii waters.
A proposal aimed at protecting a cruise line that sails Hawaii waters from foreign-flagged ships has drawn widespread opposition, apparently taking by surprise the cruise line it was supposed to benefit. The government should drop the proposal and devise a more reasonable way to inject fair competition into the cruise industry.
NCL America withdrew one of its three Hawaii cruise ships this month, reassigning it to Europe, and announced plans to withdraw a second ship and send it to Asia, leaving only one ship in Hawaii waters. Colin Veitch, NCL's president and chief executive officer, expressed confidence to the Star-Bulletin's editorial board that the single ship, Pride of America, will be profitable.
The proposal by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection would establish barriers to foreign-flagged cruise lines that operate between California and Hawaii. Those ships now make brief stops in Ensenada, Mexico, to comply with federal rules, but the proposal would expand requirements to an extent that the intent clearly is to shut them down.
The requirements are nationwide, and opposition has come from cruise lines and ports not only from California but from Alaska and the East Coast. Veitch says even an NCL cruise of Alaska would be harmed by the rule. It has drawn opposition from Gov. Linda Lingle and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Lingle maintains the proposal would cost the state $279 million in economic benefits from the foreign-flagged vessels, but Veitch said any of NCL's ships "would be three-and-a-half times more valuable economically than the entire foreign fleet." The Lingle administration should lead an effort to find ways to make the Hawaii-based ship and foreign-flagged ships that pay lesser wages profitable in a competitive atmosphere.
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