The following is statement by Capt. Don Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P):
(LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md.) — President Trump has floated the idea of providing financial assistance to the cruise ship industry, hard hit by the spread of COVID-19. We should not give one dime in stimulus money to "flag of convenience" party boats; they should be the last on the list for a federal bailout.
The major cruise lines have owners who live in the United States, but they register their vessels in foreign countries and sail under foreign flags. They utilize flags-of-convenience laws to avoid hiring American crews and adhering to American labor laws and standards, as well as environmental codes. These “operators” depend on the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard for protection while avoiding paying taxes to the U.S. Treasury.
Over the weekend, Vice President Pence described the cruise lines as “great companies.” They’re not. American taxpayers should not be sending their hard-earned dollars to an industry that freeloads off of our government and is notorious for exploiting low-cost foreign crews.
If Congress and the White House want to protect American interests, foster an economic recovery, and help the maritime community, monies would be better spent assisting ferry systems such as the Alaska Marine Highway System now taking a double blow from the economic downturn and the decline in oil revenue. Assistance also should be offered to commuter ferries such as the Washington State Ferries and Staten Island Ferry that have suffered a loss of commuter traffic. The domestic ferry systems employ American workers, and they are an essential part of our transportation infrastructure.
The virus crisis and our dependence on foreign trade also highlights our nation’s overreliance on foreign cargo fleets, especially those of China, Hong Kong and South Korea. Congress should increase incentives for cargo vessels that fly the American flag for reasons of both national security and the free flow of commerce.