Courtney opposes new cruise ship rules


In a letter dated Friday, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney is the latest to voice opposition to a proposal that could cut back the amount of time cruise ships spend stateside.

Administrators with U.S. Customs and Border Protection have proposed requiring foreign-flagged cruise ships that depart from a U.S. port to spend at least 48 hours in a foreign port.

The proposed changes to the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 is intended to help U.S. cruise lines compete with foreign-flagged vessels in the lucrative Hawaiian market.

For a ship like the ms Maasdam, due in New London Harbor on May 8, that could mean eliminating some of its five U.S. port visits in order to stay longer at the five Canadian ports on its itinerary.

Courtney, D-2nd District, asks the agency to consider the “potential wide-ranging ramifications of the proposed rule not only on southeastern Connecticut but on the domestic cruise ship industry as a whole.”

“At a time when the cruise industry (is) just getting its feet on the ground in southeastern Connecticut, this rule, if enacted, would do far more harm than good,” Courtney wrote.

Last year, New London hosted more than 22,000 passengers and crew, spending an estimated $60 to $100 per day in port and boosting the regional economy.

Customs is reviewing more than 1,000 comments it has received arguing for and against the proposed rule change, an administrator has said, and the office is proceeding cautiously in light of the strong response from the cruise ship industry and port operators around the country.

That includes response from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who sent a letter to the head of Homeland Security and to customs officials last week, and the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, which drafted a letter to customs officials criticizing the rule, according to the chamber president.

Also, the Cruise Lines International Association Inc., a trade group, has urged the agency to withdraw its proposal, which it said could have a “precedent-setting” negative impact on the industry.

The American Association of Port Authorities, which represents ports in the Western hemisphere, has also criticized the proposal.

Any changes would have to be published in the Federal Register before taking effect.