Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye opened a Pandora’s box with his recent
legislative proposal favoring Norwegian Cruise Line’s expansion
plans in the islands.
Now, other cruise lines and some California ports want in on the
The proposal, added quietly to the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations
Bill, would alter an old shipping law that prevents ships built and
registered in other countries from operating between U.S. ports
unless they also make a call at a foreign port.
Inouye’s proposal would allow NCL to fly the U.S. flag on three
foreign-built ships, a move that would eliminate the need for a
foreign stop and allow them to operate exclusively within Hawaiian
waters. NCL has promised that the ships would comply with U.S. laws
and carry a U.S. crew.
The appropriations bill, with Inouye’s provision, cleared the
Senate Jan. 23 and now is in a House-Senate conference
Lobbyists for Holland America Line and Princess Cruises now are
pushing an amendment that would allow as many as six ships from
other companies to reflag and operate in Hawaii.
“We basically want the opportunity to compete and not give our
competitor a monopoly in the Hawaii market,” said Holland America
spokeswoman Rose Abello.
“We’ve been going to Hawaii for years. We offer 15- and 16-day
cruises on the Statendam roundtrip from San Diego. We call at
Ensenada on those. So it’s five days out, five days in Hawaii and
five days back.”
Princess declined to comment at this time, a spokeswoman
A key point in negotiations was NCL’s agreement to complete
construction on the hull of the first Project America ship.
The project, sponsored by Inouye, would have allowed American
Classic Voyages Co. to reflag a foreign-built ship for interisland
Hawaii cruises as long as it used a U.S. shipyard to build two
But, before those ships could be completed, American Classic
declared bankruptcy. NCL has purchased parts of the ships and last
fall it had the materials towed to Germany for completion.
Apparently Holland America and Princess are not proposing any
Meanwhile, port officials in San Diego and San Francisco want a
similar change that would allow foreign-built ships to cruise along
the West Coast without a foreign-port requirement.
“What is good for Hawaii is good for all,” said Rita Vandergaw,
senior director of marketing and communications for the Port of San
Diego. “We are working with Sen. (Dianne) Feinstein, and we are
asking her to put in a provision that extends that same waiver to
the entire U.S.”
Gerry Roybal, maritime marketing manager for the Port of San
Francisco, is suggesting legislation that would allow three
foreign-built ships to reflag and operate solely among California
Most California cruises stop at Ensenada or Vancouver to comply
with the federal law.
“It puts San Francisco and any other central coastal port at a
great competitive disadvantage because we are so far removed from
foreign countries,” Roybal said.
Indeed, the Port of Seattle is not expressing any interest in
the campaign. But Seattle is located near Vancouver, which easily
allows Alaska-bound ships to make the foreign call.
“We’re very pleased with the way our business is growing with
the Alaska and Canada cruise market, and we’re going to focus on
that,” spokesman Mick Shultz said.
Roybal cited an economic-impact study that showed three ships on
California coastal routes would generate $260 million in port
revenues, wages from new jobs, revenue from the purchase of
supplies and tourism spending.
Vandergaw said she is optimistic that Feinstein will sponsor
some sort of legislation or amendment, and Roybal said that
contacts with the Democratic legislator’s office have been
“There are no legislative drafts or a real commitment, but there
was a verbal interest expressed,” he said.
Feinstein’s chief of staff, Mark Kadish, referred comment to the
senator’s press office, which did not return several phone calls
from TravelAge West.