Florida Sues Feds Over Shutdown of Cruise Industry

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the lawsuit Thursday, arguing in the complaint that the cruise ship industry had been “singled out.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, speaks during a news conference surrounded by officials and cruise workers, Thursday, April 8, at PortMiami in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI (CN) — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sued President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday over the ongoing ban on cruise ship travel.

The 21-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tampa, argues the cruise industry has been “singled out” and prevented from reopening, despite large numbers of Americans receiving the vaccine for Covid-19.

Moody and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced the lawsuit during a press conference at Port Miami on Thursday.

“We have tens of thousands of Floridians who depend on the viability of our cruise industry, for their livelihoods, for their jobs, for the ability to feed their families,” said DeSantis. “We don’t believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry for over a year based on very little evidence and very little data. And I think we have a good chance for success.”

The lawsuit specifically targets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Health and Human Services. Representatives for those agencies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The cruise ship industry has lost billions of dollars since the Covid-19 pandemic hit early last year. One of the first major outbreaks of Covid-19 occurred aboard the Diamond Princess in February 2020. A month later, the cruise ship Zaandam was stranded for days off the Florida coast until state officials allowed them to disembark.

The CDC issued a “no-sail order” soon after and renewed the directive every few months. Last October, the agency issued a “framework for conditional sailing” order that mandates several health measures before cruise lines can begin offering trips from U.S. ports. The CDC updated that order last week with requirements to implement daily testing of crew members, vaccinations of crew members and new agreements with ports and county health departments to mitigate the spread of the virus. If cruise line plans are approved, the companies can start test cruises.

The Cruise Lines International Association called the updated order “disappointing.”

“The new requirements are unduly burdensome, largely unworkable and seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to Covid-19 that is the basis for every other U.S. sector of our society,” the association said in a statement.

Already some cruise lines have indicated they will bypass American ports and offer voyages from the Caribbean. Royal Caribbean Group will begin offering sailings from Bermuda and the Bahamas in June. Norwegian Cruise Lines plans to follow suit with trips from ports in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Carnival Cruise Line, the world’s largest, and Disney Cruise Line have cancelled all U.S. cruises through June 30.

Some cruise lines are already operating out of Europe and Asia, a point Florida’s governor brought up on Thursday.

“People are still going to go on cruises,” DeSantis said. “Instead of flying to Miami, spending money at our hotels, spending money to eat in our restaurants before they get on the ships, they are going to fly to the Bahamas and get on the ships… It just won’t be helping the state of Florida and it won’t be helping our folks here who really depend on that.

“How does that make any sense?” he added.

Nearly 60% of all American passengers go through Florida’s ports, according to a September 2020 report by the Federal Maritime Commission. During the first six months of the pandemic, the agency found Florida lost more than $3 billion in revenue and 50,000 jobs.

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