Senators Introduce Act to Compel CDC to Restore U.S. Cruises by July 4

senators propose act to compel restoration of US cruises
Idled cruise ships in Miami in 2020 awaiting their return to service (PortMiami)

Published Apr 13, 2021 6:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The efforts to pressure the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to move forward with the restoration of cruises sailing from U.S. ports continued with three U.S. senators today introducing a bill to require the CDC to restore cruising by July 4. The senators from Florida and Alaska followed a move last week by the state of Florida to sue the U.S. government to restore cruising and a letter-writing campaign launched by the cruise industry. Alaska’s governor said his state might follow Florida in a lawsuit to ease the restrictions on cruising.

Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Sullivan of Alaska introduced the “Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements Act” (CRUISE), which would revoke the CDC’s current orders for the cruise industry and require the CDC to provide COVID-19 mitigation guidance for cruise lines to resume safe domestic operations. Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar of Florida joined with the senators and will lead this legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 “Florida is a tourism state with thousands of jobs relying on the success of our ports, cruise lines, and maritime industries,” said Senator Scott in announcing the introduction of the act. “While many sectors of the economy have been safely operating for months under CDC guidelines, Floridians, and those across the nation that rely on the cruise industry for work, continue to wait for updated guidance from the CDC. The CDC's refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong, and it’s time to get the cruise lines open safely. Our bill, the CRUISE Act, says we’re not waiting on the CDC any longer. Cruises can and should resume, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring back our cruise industry safely.”

In March, Senator Scott sent a letter to the White House COVID Response Coordinator, Jeffrey Zients, urging the Biden Administration to immediately issue clear guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise industry. Senator Scott also introduced the Set Sail Safely Act last year, which would establish a Maritime Task Force, in coordination with a Private Sector Advisory Committee, to address the health, safety, security, and logistical changes needed to allow for cruise lines and ports to resume operations.

The CDC recently issued technical guidance for the cruise industry addressed some of the steps that will help to restore cruises from U.S. ports but has not detailed the steps and a timeline to the restoration of cruising. The CDC and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg both told the media in interviews that they foresaw cruising resuming this summer.

The proposed act introduced today by the three senators requires the CDC to issue recommendations on how to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 to passengers and crew onboard cruise ships, while saying no later than July 4, 2021, the CDC must revoke the order entitled “Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew.”

The senators are also calling for establishing an interagency “Working Group” that will develop recommendations to facilitate the resumption of passenger cruise ship operations in the United States. The recommendations will facilitate the resumption of passenger cruise ship operations in the United States no later than July 4, 2021. At the same, the act also ensures that the Department of Health and Human Services and CDC retain all appropriate authorities to make and enforce regulations necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases on any individual cruise ship.

Senator Sullivan highlighted that all the other sectors of the travel and hospitality industries have been permitted to resume operations but accused the CDC of continuing to stall on its steps for the cruise industry. He said the proposed legislation would provide a clear path to restoring cruises which provide a strong economic benefit to Alaska and numerous small businesses. While he continues to speak about restoring cruises this summer, the bill does not address the second challenge of Canada’s ban on cruise ships which with the U.S. cabotage regulations effectively blocked the large cruise ships from sailing to Alaska in 2021. Senator Rubio also highlighted the economic contributions of the cruise industry.