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FMC Mulls Changes to Cruise Rules on Non-Performance & Refunds

The Federal Maritime Commission is gathering information about possible changes to regulations governing the definition of “non-performance” by a cruise line and the process for obtaining a refund when a vessel does not sail.


Interested parties may comment on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) until Friday, November 13, 2020. Individuals may share comments responsive to the ANPRM via secretary@fmc.gov.


The ANPRM is based on a recommendation made by Commissioner Louis E. Sola in his July Fact Finding 30 Interim Report examining the refund policies of cruise lines. Commissioner Sola recommended that the FMC interpret “non-performance of transportation” to include cancelling a sailing or delaying passenger boarding by 24 hours or more. Commissioner Sola also wants the FMC to make clear how passengers may obtain refunds under a cruise line’s financial instruments in certain circumstances.


The specific economic impacts of COVID-19 on Florida ports from Key West to Jacksonville and on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts have not been limited to passenger cruise lines. These impacts extended to port authorities and cities throughout Florida with cancelled sailings resulting in loss of revenue to public ports, government at all levels, and private companies that do business with cruise lines.


In his Interim Report, Commissioner Sola chronicles specific steps each port is taking to resume operations, including what distinct measures will be instituted to protect passengers, crews, longshore, and others from any potential exposure to COVID-19 or other pathogens.


Ports that also serve ocean cargo customers are not insulated from the impacts of COVID-19. Not all Florida ports serve both cruise and cargo businesses. Furthermore, in some ports, the cruise business accounts for a larger percentage of revenue than cargo. Finally, diminished consumer demand has contributed to lower volumes of containerized freight transiting gateways.


Florida ports that do handle cargo are also seeing lower export volumes. A significant amount of the cargo shipped from Florida to Caribbean ports supports the cruise industry in those foreign ports of call.


Commissioner Sola also conducted a regional assessment in Alaska as passenger cruise operations are an important part of its tourism economy.  U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) invited Commissioner Sola to witness firsthand the consequences that Alaskans are bearing from the loss of the 2020 cruise season.

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