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Norwegian Cruise Line plans to revive the Hawaii interisland
cruise industry wiped out in the turmoil of the 2001 terrorist
attacks under a new provision signed into law last week by
NCL becomes the only line permitted to sail the islands, without
touching down in a foreign port, under the 2003 Omnibus
NCL currently sails Hawaii with the Norwegian Star and Norwegian
Wind, stopping in Fanning Island, which is about 1,200 miles south
of Hawaii and is part of the Kiribati Republic.
The new provision, initiated by Hawaii’s U.S. Sen. Daniel
Inouye, allows Norwegian to use three ships for only interisland
cruises one existing vessel and two currently being built overseas.
All will fly the U.S. flag.
Malaysian-owned NCL will also establish a U.S. subsidiary that
pays U.S. taxes, and will hire an exclusively American crew for the
Colin Veitch, NCL’s president and CEO, said that he expects to
have a ship sailing pure interisland itineraries by early summer of
2004, with calls to Fanning Island.
“We will continue going to Fanning because our ambition is to
grow our Hawaii business, not swap one itinerary for another,” he
said. “We strongly feel we can support a 10- and 11-day itinerary,
going to Fanning, probably on a year-round basis.”
But the two new ships and the reflagged vessel will be devoted
to interisland sailings, he said, and may occasionally offer West
Coast-Hawaii sailings as well.
NCL’s new ships were partially built at a Mississippi shipyard
for American Classic Voyages, a U.S. firm that offered the only
exclusively interisland itineraries around Hawaii, until it went
bankrupt, shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Norwegian purchased the ships, and is currently completing them
in Germany. Opponents of the exemption said that it gives NCL an
unfair competitive advantage in the Hawaii market.
“We hope to extend the benefits of this wonderful vacation to as
many people as we can,” said Michael Crye, president of the
International Council of Cruise Lines, which represents the 16
international cruise lines, including Norwegian, and which tried to
amend the legislation to include other lines. Senator John McCain,
R-Az, a longtime opponent of the provision, will likely hold
hearings in the Senate Commerce Committee, which he chairs, an aide
said, and has also asked for an investigation by the General
Accounting Office. No timetable has yet been set for hearings.