When it comes to business, I am a firm believer in letting market forces prevail. Our customers give us constant feedback, and we use this to fine-tune our products and services.
Our competitors keep us nimble and force us to evaluate the things that we need to do to stay ahead. In fact, competition is an integral part of business no matter the industry. I am in favor of competition and a free market approach as long as there is a level playing field. But there seems to be no end to attempts to allow foreign maritime interests into the domestic trade. Proponents of these “special exceptions” always seem to have a reason why they shouldn’t have to comply with the same laws that the rest of us do.
An example is a bill (H.R. 2460) introduced by Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, that would exempt foreign-flag cruise ships from the requirements of the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) and allow them to call on consecutive U.S. ports. He argues that allowing in vessels that are foreign-flagged, foreign-built, foreign-crewed and foreign-owned will somehow create jobs, promote tourism and improve ailing local economies. In my opinion, this bill will place U.S. vessel operators, U.S. shipyards and U.S. workers at a competitive disadvantage. Foreign ships are built by foreign workers in foreign shipyards (often with government subsidies), and they are manned largely with international crew.
In promoting these bills, why do our elected officials fail to see the potential damage that will be inflicted on us economically? Can you imagine how devastating it would be to our businesses and economy if foreign companies were allowed to operate towboats or offshore service vessels, conduct ferry operations, run dinner and excursion cruises, or operate other marine activities in direct competition with U.S. operators?
H.R. 2460 is unfair and the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) is also against the proposed exemption to the PVSA. PVA believes that relaxing our cabotage laws (the Jones Act and the PVSA) will only lead to undermining the economic health of the U.S. maritime industry.