by John Haughey
The Center Square
March 26, 2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday demanded the Biden administration lift the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) no-sail order for cruise ships that has “outlived its usefulness.”
“We need to be able to get these cruise lines operating again,” said DeSantis in a Port Canaveral roundtable discussion. “In Florida, we have everything going on but the cruise lines, because the federal government won’t let them sail, the CDC won’t let them sail.”
The CDC Wednesday confirmed its year-long no-sail order for cruise ships will remain in place until Nov. 1 despite a request from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to lift the order this summer.
The CLIA maintains the no-sail order, issued March 24, 2020, and updated in October, has not adjusted to changing circumstances fostered by the increasing availability of vaccines.
The October order “does not reflect the industry’s proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines, and unfairly treats cruises differently,” CLIA President/CEO Kelly Craighead said in a statement. “Cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors.”
Florida’s $8 billion a year cruise operations, idled for more than year because of the pandemic, is an important component of Florida’s $117.6 billion maritime industry.
Nearly 60 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations occur in Florida, where 14 cruise lines operate 63 ships out of five ports, directly employing 150,000, paying $7.69 billion in wages and hosting 11.5 million passengers who spent $1.05 billion ashore in 2016, according to CLIA.
“The jobs are very, very important,” DeSantis said. “And it’s not just people that work for the cruise industry. This has a ripple effect throughout all kinds of small businesses, mom and pop operations, that service the cruise industry.”
According to a study financed by Florida Ports Council, the COVID-19 pandemic has cost Florida’s 15 seaports $23 billion in “lost” economic activity and as many as 170,000 of the more than 900,000 jobs the state’s maritime industry generates across the country.
A Sept. 24 report by U.S. Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis Sola said Florida has lost $3.2 billion in economic activity and 49,500 local jobs that pay $2.3 billion in wages as a result of the suspension of cruising in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Florida’s busiest port, PortMiami, welcomed 6.8 million cruise passengers in 2019, supporting 30,000 local jobs, generating $5.8 billion in economic value and paying $188 million in taxes, according to Sola. PortMiami estimates it will lose at least $55 million this year.
DeSantis last week outlined a proposal to allocate $260 million in assistance to seaports from the state’s share of the $17 billion-plus Florida governments will receive from the $1.9 trillion ‘American Rescue’ COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress earlier this month.
The governor said the “federally-imposed lockdown” on the industry no longer makes sense and the CDC needs to act now to allow the industry to begin recouping its losses no later than June 1.
DeSantis said he and state Attorney General Ashley Moody have discussed “legal options” but did not elaborate.
“Is it OK for the federal government to idle an industry for a year with no end in sight?” he asked. I don’t think you can indefinitely shutter these businesses What we need is a way forward. This is a big logistical operation. It takes time to do it.”
Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said her cruise-liners are waiting to shove off and hoping for a reprieve from the CDC to salvage the summer tourist season.
“Airlines, hotels, resorts, every part of the travel and tourism sector is preparing for summer travel,” Duffy said. “Our ships are ready.”