Last updated: 02:14 PM ET, Thu May 09 2013

Sen. Rockefeller Increases Pressure on Cruise Industry

Features & Advice | Carnival Cruise Lines | Theresa Norton Masek | May 09, 2013

Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) is increasing the pressure on the cruise industry, sending a new round of letters to chief executives at Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line.

“The cruise industry enjoys many advantages operating out of the United States but the advantages to American consumers and taxpayers are less clear,” Rockefeller said. “Recent cruise ship incidents underscore the need for a strong commitment to passenger safety and security from the entire cruise industry, not just those that wind up on the news most frequently. The responses from the cruise line companies will help Congress make sure the rules governing the cruise industry provide passengers with the safe and comfortable traveling experiences they expect and deserve, instead of giving the companies a free pass at taxpayer expense.”

Rockefeller and Carnival executives exchanged letters in March over the industry’s safety policies and procedures and whether the line would reimburse the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy for costs incurred offering assistance to the Carnival Triumph in February and Carnival Splendor in November 2010. Last month, Carnival Chairman and CEO Micky Arison said he was, in fact, paying back those agencies about $4.1 million.

“Is your company willing to commit to reimbursing government rescue costs associated with your company’s vessels as a matter of policy going forward?” Rockefeller asks in the five-page letter dated May 7. The letter asks 15 questions about redundant power systems, passenger safety and sanitation programs. Rockefeller asks for responses by May 24.

Rockefeller is chairman of the Senate committee on commerce, science, and transportation. His spokesman on the committee, Kevin McAlister, said the next step has not been determined yet. The senator said “he’s willing to use all the options available to him, including potential legislation or hearings, but we don’t have a next step per se planned,” McAlister said. “But he said he thinks it is important to add oversight to the industry.”

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