The Passenger Vessel Service Act was an act passed by the 49th United States Congress in 1886 which currently forces foreign Cruise Ships who depart from U.S Ports to visit foreign ports before returning to The United States. According to United States Customs and Border Protection, if a cruise ship fails to visit a foreign port before their return to the U.S, “the penalty imposed for the unlawful transportation of passengers between coastwise points is $778.00 for each passenger so transported and landed.” This means Cruise Ships like the Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas, which has a capacity of 7,600 passengers, will have to pay a fine of nearly $ 6 million if they violate the PVS Act of 1886.
The Passenger Vessel Act specifically concerns ships that fly foreign flags. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, “90% of Cruise Ships that call at a U.S Port have a foreign flag.” Most major Cruise line fleets are actually registered in countries such as the Bahamas, Panama, Bermuda, Italy, Malta, or even The Netherlands. Cruise Ships are registered in foreign countries for a number of reasons, but the primary ones have to do with saving money. Open registry countries, such as Panama, provide Cruise lines with an opportunity to outsource cheap employment. This means that because the Cruise Lines are employing individuals outside of the United States, the employees will not be subject to the same labor rights as American Citizens would be; meaning they can work longer hours and earn less. Furthermore, Panama, for example, has a reciprocal tax agreement with the United States, which means almost all Cruise Lines do not pay federal taxes in the U.S. Why, then, did the United States enact this law in the nineteenth century, and why do they continue to protect it?
The Passenger Vessel Service Act was enacted to protect the United States economy and shipping business, as it encourages coastwide transportative vessels to be registered with the United States and thus built, manufactured, and operated by Americans as well. This was done with the hopes of securing a domestically run merchant fleet, and to defend the United States from the excavational endeavors they and Europe have been doing to foreign countries through Imperialism and mercantilism during and throughout the nineteenth century. If you have been injured and are experiencing a medical emergency on a cruise, you will still have to pay the penalty imposed by the Passenger Vessel Service Act if you preemptively return to the United States before departing from a foreign port, although certain medical exceptions to the rule have taken place.
Norwegian Cruise Lines, whose entire fleet is registered to the Bahamas, created a specific American-based subsidiary called The Pride of America to circumnavigate the Passenger Vessel Service Act, which allows the ship to travel between U.S Ports without a foreign country needed. The fact is, Cruise Lines, like any other major corporation or industry, spend millions a year in lobbying the U.S congress to maintain and protect their business.
hile Cruise lines may have their fleets registered abroad, that does not mean you have to file a lawsuit in their home country. Almost all cruise ship incidents, regardless of where in the world they took place, have to be filed within a year of the date of the incident in the Federal Courthouse of Miami, Florida. Our offices have been representing injured passengers from around the world for decades, and have successfully held cruise lines accountable for their negligence, medical malpractice, and general disregard for passenger safety. Contact our offices today so we can begin defending you!