A bill to set a course for U.S. cruise industry's return is introduced in the Senate

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Cruise ships idled off the coast of Bimini, the Bahamas, during the pandemic.
Cruise ships idled off the coast of Bimini, the Bahamas, during the pandemic. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Florida's two U.S. senators have introduced legislation that aims to accelerate the cruise industry's return to service.

Rick Scott
Rick Scott

Republican senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio introduced the Set Sail Safely Act, which would establish a Maritime Task Force, in coordination with a private sector advisory committee, to address the health, safety, security, and logistical changes needed to allow cruise lines and ports to resume operations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has imposed a No Sail Order on U.S. based cruise ships due to the Covid-19 pandemic through Sept. 30. It is widely expected to be extended. The Set Sail Safely Act would require federal agencies to work together with input from private sector stakeholders to develop a plan for the safe resumption of cruising.

The legislation comes amid mounting travel industry concern that the CDC has not engaged with the cruise industry on a return to service plan. The U.S. cruise industry has been on pause since mid-March, even as some lines have resumed cruising in Europe.

The Maritime Task Force would include representatives from several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of State and the Federal Maritime Commission. Private Sector stakeholders would include representatives from the cruise industry, U.S. ports, small businesses and health professionals. 

The act would mandate developing a timeline for meetings of the task force and implementation of its recommendations. 

"The cruise and maritime industries are vital to the prosperity of our state's economy, and securing guidance for safely resuming operations is a top priority of mine," Sen. Rubio said in a statement.  

CLIA global chair Adam Goldstein said the legislation was important to the "nearly 44,000 American travel advisors and hundreds of small and medium sized businesses in the U.S. that provide products and services to cruise lines.

"The senators' bill draws much needed attention to the importance of strategic dialogue between appropriate federal agencies and a broad group of public and private sector stakeholders to safely advance a resumption of cruising in the U.S. that mirrors the gradual and successful restart of cruise operations in Europe," he added. 

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