Last month, I took part in the Passenger Vessel Association’s annual Congressional Fly-In in Washington, D.C. The group enthusiastically participated in more than 30 prearranged meetings with members of Congress, their staffs and key committee staffs. My daughter Terri and I met with both of our senators from Kentucky where we discussed issues important to the passenger vessel industry and those specific to our business.
Before we took to Capitol Hill, we were briefed by attorney Joan Bondareff of Blank Rome LLP, a prominent law firm with extensive maritime industry and government experience. She provided us with an in-depth look at how Washington works and covered many of the major issues currently facing Congress and the country.
Armed with this information and specific talking points from PVA, we headed to Capitol Hill. Here are some of the key topics we covered:
• Defend the Jones Act. The maritime industry and Congress must stand together to defend our long-term interests and fight back against attempts to modify the law.
• Endorse a risk-based system for survival craft. Some in Congress would like to institute a one-size-fits-all approach to out-of-water lifesaving for U.S.-flagged passenger vessels. We urged Congress not to go down this path, and continue to let the Coast Guard base such decisions on risk and local operating conditions.
• Provide funding for U.S. ferries.
• Support the Coast Guard’s marine inspection mission. Our strong working relationship with Coast Guard inspectors has contributed to the passenger vessel industry’s excellent safety record. Without adequate funding, the Coast Guard cannot continue to work effectively with our industry.
• Help ease regulation. The cumulative effect of uncoordinated regulations is a heavy burden for small business. We must take steps to get relief.
My day on Capitol Hill was fascinating and productive. It was a chance to see our government at work and to get our message across.
I encourage you to experience this for yourself. You will not regret it.