Bill would allow foreign passenger vessels to cruise U.S.

A Texas congressman wants to allow foreign-flag passenger vessels to cruise the U.S. coast as a way to boost local economies.

Rep. Blake Farenthold, a freshman Republican, last week introduced legislation to amend the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), which is similar to the Jones Act. PVSA prohibits a foreign cruise vessel from picking up passengers in one U.S. port and dropping them off in another. A foreign-flag cruise vessel can pick up and return passengers to the same U.S. port provided the vessel calls at a foreign port during the cruise.

“In today’s geopolitical climate, a lot of people would rather spend their vacation dollars and stay in the U.S.,” said Farenthold, whose district includes the ports of Corpus Christi and Brownsville. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, whose district includes Galveston, is a co-sponsor.

The change would open up a wide variety of options for low-cost cruises, Farenthold said. H.R. 2460, the “Creating and Restoring U.S. Investment and Stimulating Employment Act,” would benefit local communities and attractions by bringing in more tourists, he said.

Similar attempts to change cabotage laws have failed in the past, but Farenthold figures his proposal has “a little bit better chance of passing than some broader Jones Act reforms.” He sees it as a “narrow exemption” aimed at creating jobs that doesn’t threaten the shipbuilding industry.

The Passenger Vessel Association sees it differently.

While the trade group’s board hasn’t formally taken it up yet, “we expect that we will oppose the measure,” said John Groundwater, PVA’s executive director. “PVA has been a staunch advocate of the Passenger Vessel Services Act over the years to protect the competitive rights of the U.S. maritime industry.”       



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