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FMC to Conduct Cruise Line Fact Finding Mission

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By The Maritime Executive 04-30-2020 08:46:30

The Federal Maritime Commission in the US has announced that Commissioner Louis E. Sola will lead a fact finding investigation and work with key industry stakeholders to identify commercial measures passenger cruise lines can adopt to mitigate COVID-19 related impacts.

In the course of his investigation, Sola will:

•      Engage cruise industry stakeholders to identify commercial solutions to COVID-19 related issues interfering with the operations of the industry;
•      Interact with any or all maritime related COVID-19 task forces in order to gather information and data related to the impact of COVID-19 on the cruise industry;
•      Establish at least one team of leaders from the cruise industry, as well as other stakeholders, to develop commercial solutions to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commissioner has full authority under 46 C.F.R. §§ 502.281-291 to perform his investigative duties, including the ability to issue subpoenas, and take depositions, and hold hearings.

“Fact Finding 30 is an effort to determine the economic stability of the cruise lines,” said Sola. “When we talk about the ‘cruise industry’ we tend to think of the ship and vessel operator, but there is an exhaustive list of American citizens and businesses who rely on the work they do for the cruise lines.  The sooner cruise companies are able to resume operations and provide certainty to the public about the lines’ financial security, the sooner we can bring stability to enterprises and communities that rely on the cruise industry for their livelihoods. I am confident that the fact finding will identify useful commercial measures industry can take to achieve those goals.” 

No single federal agency has exclusive or comprehensive authority over cruise lines. The Federal Maritime Commission’s jurisdiction over the cruise industry is found at 46 U.S.C. chap. 441, the most relevant provision of which is related to the financial responsibilities of cruise lines for non-performance of transportation. These provisions apply to companies operating vessels with 50 or more berths that embark passengers at locations in the United States.

“A few months ago we awoke to a new reality in America as we faced an invisible enemy that has restricted our movement, taken the lives of loved ones, and dealt a blow to our economy,” said Sola.

“In keeping with its mission, the Federal Maritime Commission has studied the strengths and weaknesses of the international supply chain and most recently has begun to address COVID-19 related impacts to the cargo delivery system. It has been determined that as the Commission has examined concerns related to the cargo side of the shipping industry, we should also examine the impact of this pandemic on passenger vessel operators.”

He said: “I intend to examine issues such as canceled sailings and delayed debarkations to determine where and if this Commission can act to facilitate a fair and equitable position between the passenger and the cruise line.”