In a move that could benefit Caribbean ports and economies, Florida State lawmakers have teamed up to introduce a bill that would allow cruise lines and ports to resume operations.
The Set Sail Safely Act, introduced last week by Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, would establish a Maritime Task Force, in coordination with an advisory committee from the private sector, to “address the health, safety, security, and logistical changes” needed to allow for cruise lines and ports to resume operations.
Currently, cruise lines are under a “no sail order” from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until September 30, 2020, and have been since March 13 when many COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect. Most cruise lines have imposed voluntary pauses on operations through October 31 and beyond.
The news comes just a week after a meeting of the Miami-Dade County Tourism and Ports Committee, at which Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President and CEO Frank Del Rio spoke passionately about the need for cruise lines in the U.S. to be able to show government agencies their new precautions – and get back out on the water again.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “The cruise industry is close to devastation. … We’ve got to get back to work.”
The legislation has widespread support among the cruising community, including the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); the American Association of Port Authorities; the Florida Ports Council; the Miami-Dade Tourism and the Ports Committee and Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Explained in a release from Sen. Scott’s office, the Set Sail Safely act would place the resumption of cruising in the hands of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, working with Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Coast Guard; Health and Human Services; the Department of Transportation; the Department of State and the Federal Maritime Commission.
Private sector stakeholders noted included representatives from the cruise lines, U.S. ports, commercial fishermen, small businesses and health professionals. Working together, the Maritime Task Force and its advisory committee would create a timeline for meetings, recommendations and implementation of the task force’s recommendations.
Adam Goldstein, the current CLIA president, said: “On behalf of the wider cruise community, including nearly 44,000 American travel advisors and hundreds of small and medium sized businesses in the U.S. that provide products and services to cruise lines, CLIA joins our port partners in thanking Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio for their leadership in introducing this important legislation.
”The cruise industry is an important economic contributor in the United States, supporting nearly half a million U.S. jobs, and over 150,000 in Florida alone, prior to the pandemic. The Senators’ bill draws much needed attention to the importance of strategic dialogue between appropriate federal agencies and a broad group of public and private sector stakeholders to safely advance a resumption of cruising in the U.S. that mirrors the gradual and successful restart of cruise operations in Europe.”