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Proposed Rule

Hawaiian Coastwise Cruises

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Customs and Border Protection; Department of Homeland Security.

ACTION:

Proposed interpretation; solicitation of comments.

SUMMARY:

This document proposes new criteria to be used by Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) to determine whether non-coastwise-qualified vessels are in violation of the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) when engaging in cruise itineraries in which passengers board at a U.S. port, the vessel calls at several Hawaiian ports, and then the vessel proceeds to a foreign port or ports for a brief period, before ultimately returning to the original U.S. port of embarkation where the passengers disembark to complete their cruise. CBP believes these itineraries are contrary to the PVSA because it appears that the primary objective of the foreign stop is evasion of the PVSA.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before December 21, 2007.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Glen E. Vereb, Cargo Security, Carriers & Immigration Branch, Office of International Trade, (202) 572-8730.

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ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by docket number, by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail: Border Security Regulations Branch, Office of International Trade, Customs and Border Protection, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., (Mint Annex), Washington, DC 20229
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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Public Participation

Interested persons are invited to participate in this proposed interpretation by submitting written data, views, or arguments on all aspects of the proposed interpretation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also invites comments that relate to the economic, environmental, or federalism effects that might result from this proposed interpretation. Comments that will provide the most assistance to CBP in developing these procedures will reference a specific portion of the proposed interpretation, explain the reason for any recommended change, and include data, information, or authority that support such recommended change.

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number for this proposed interpretation. All comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov. Submitted comments may also be inspected on regular business days between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Office of International Trade, Customs and Border Protection, 799 9th Street, NW., 5th Floor, Washington, DC. Arrangements to inspect submitted documents should be made in advance by calling Mr. Joseph Clark at (202) 572-8768.

II. Background

The maritime cabotage law governing the transportation of passengers was first established by section 8 of the Passenger Vessel Services Act of June 19, 1886 (the “PVSA”), 24 Stat. 81; as amended by section 2 of the Act of February 17, 1898, 30 Stat. 248, formerly codified at 46 U.S.C. App. 289 (now codified at 46 U.S.C. 55103). That statute provided that no foreign vessel shall transport passengers between ports or places in the United States, either directly or by way of a foreign port, under a penalty of $200 (now $300, as promulgated in T.D. 03-11 pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, 28 U.S.C. 2461 note) for each passenger so transported and landed.

The intent of the maritime cabotage laws, including the PVSA, was to provide a “legal structure that guarantees a coastwise monopoly to Start Printed Page 65488American shipping and thereby promotes development of the American merchant marine.” Autolog Corp. v. Regan, 731 F.2d 25, 28 (DC Cir. 1984); see also The Granada, 35 F.Supp. 892, 893, 1940 AMC 1601 (DC Pa 1940) (stating that the legislative aim of section 289 [now 55102] was the creation of a practical monopoly of coastwise and domestic shipping business for United States ships). In other words, the PVSA was enacted to advance the United States merchant marine and fleet by restricting the use of foreign-owned/flagged passenger vessels in United States territorial waters.

Passenger vessel transportation between United States ports has historically been viewed to be part of the coastwise trade after the enactment of the PVSA. This view is premised on the concepts of continuity of the voyage and whether its intended purpose or objective was coastwise transportation. In other words, the PVSA was held to be violated if the coastwise movement was continuous or if the purpose of the trip was a coastwise voyage. (See 18 O.A.G. 445, September 4, 1886; 28 O.A.G. 204, February 16, 1910; 29 O.A.G. 318, February 12, 1912; 30 O.A.G. 44, February 1, 1913; 34 O.A.G. 340, December 24, 1924; and 36 O.A.G. 352, August 13, 1930.)

The CBP regulations promulgated pursuant to the PVSA are found at section 4.80a of title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (19 CFR 4.80a) and are reflective of the above cited Office of the Attorney General decisions. These regulations provide, among other things, that a non-coastwise-qualified vessel which “embarks” a passenger at a port in the United States embraced within the coastwise laws (a “coastwise port”) will be deemed to have landed that passenger in violation of the PVSA if the passenger “disembarks” at a different coastwise port on a voyage to one or more coastwise ports and a “nearby foreign port or ports” (as defined in 19 CFR 4.80a(a)(2); see also 19 CFR 4.80a(b)(2)). The terms “embark” and “disembark” are words of art which are defined as going on board a vessel for the duration of a specific voyage, and leaving a vessel at the conclusion of a specific voyage, respectively. (See 19 CFR 4.80a(a)(4).)

The references in section 4.80a to “nearby foreign ports” (defined in 19 CFR 4.80a(a)(2)) are the results of attempts by CBP to apply an Office of the Attorney General's opinion dated February 26, 1910 (28 O.A.G. 204). In that case, a foreign-flag vessel transported 615 passengers on a voyage around the world, beginning in New York and concluding in San Francisco. The Attorney General opined that since the primary object of the voyage was to visit various parts of the world on a pleasure tour returning home via California, and not to be transported in domestic commerce, the transportation was not in violation of the PVSA.

The 1910 Attorney General's opinion was extended to voyages that included foreign ports other than nearby foreign ports. (See Treasury Decision (T.D.) 68-285 (33 FR 16558), November 14, 1968.) However, voyages solely to one or more coastwise ports have always been considered predominantly coastwise. Therefore non-coastwise-qualified vessels engaging in such a voyage where passengers temporarily go ashore at a coastwise port have been deemed to have violated the PVSA.

III. Current Law and Policy

Pursuant to Public Law 109-304, 120 Stat. 1632, enacted on October 6, 2006, Title 46, United States Code, was substantially reorganized and recodified. Consequently, the PVSA is now codified at 46 U.S.C. 55103 and provides that no vessel shall transport passengers between ports or places in the United States, either directly or by way of a foreign port, under a penalty of $300 for each person so transported and landed, except one that: (1) Is wholly owned by citizens of the United States for purposes of engaging in the coastwise trade; and (2) has been issued a certificate of documentation with a coastwise endorsement or is exempt from documentation but would otherwise be eligible for such a certificate and endorsement.

In 2003, Congress enacted Public Law 108-7, Division B, Title II, Section 211, for the purpose of revitalizing the oceangoing U.S.-flag cruise industry in Hawaii (the “2003 Act”). Three oceangoing U.S.-flag cruise ships, PRIDE OF ALOHA, PRIDE OF AMERICA and PRIDE OF HAWAII, were documented with coastwise privileges pursuant to the 2003 Act. These vessels entered regular service in Hawaii in 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively, and pursuant to the express language of the 2003 Act, are limited in their operation to providing “* * * regular service transporting passengers between or among the islands of Hawaii * * *”

The CBP regulations promulgated pursuant to the PVSA are set forth in 19 CFR 4.80a and have remained unchanged throughout both the recodification of Title 46 of the United States Code and the enactment of the 2003 Act. They provide that a violation of the PVSA occurs when passengers “embark” (board a vessel for the duration of a voyage) a non-coastwise-qualified vessel at one U.S. port, and “disembark” (leave the vessel at the conclusion of a voyage) at a different U.S. port, unless they proceed with the vessel to a “distant foreign port” (i.e., any port not considered a “nearby foreign port” which is defined as any port located in North America, Central America, Bermuda, or the West Indies including the Bahamas). Currently, these regulations do not contain specific criteria for non-coastwise-qualified vessels on itineraries including U.S. ports and either “nearby” or “distant” foreign ports in order for such foreign port calls to be compliant with the PVSA.

To reiterate, the applicable CBP regulations provide that the PVSA is violated when a non-coastwise-qualified vessel transports a passenger on a voyage solely to one or more coastwise ports and the passenger disembarks or goes ashore temporarily at a coastwise port. (19 CFR 4.80a(b)(1).) Furthermore, a violation of the PVSA also occurs when a non-coastwise-qualified vessel transports a passenger on a voyage to one or more coastwise ports and a nearby foreign port or ports (but no other foreign port) and the passenger disembarks at a coastwise port other than the port of embarkation. (19 CFR 4.80a(b)(2).) However, there is no violation of the PVSA when a passenger is on a voyage to one or more coastwise ports and a distant foreign port or ports (whether or not the voyage includes a nearby foreign port or ports) and the passenger disembarks at a coastwise port, provided the passenger has proceeded with the vessel to a distant foreign port. (19 CFR 4.80a(b)(3).)

IV. Request From MARAD To Provide Guidance

The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) has requested that CBP take action to ensure enforcement of the PVSA. MARAD has asked CBP to address the recent activities of foreign-flag passenger vessels in the Hawaiian Islands that are imposing economic hardship on the operations of coastwise-qualified cruise ship operators.

In April of 2007, the operator of the three U.S.-flag cruise vessels operating solely in Hawaii pursuant to the 2003 Act announced their intent to withdraw the PRIDE OF HAWAII from the Hawaii market and redeploy her to Europe. The operator intends to re-flag the vessel to foreign registry, directly resulting in the loss of over 1,100 crewmember jobs. The primary reason cited for this decision is the rapid increase in foreign-flag competition entering the Hawaii market Start Printed Page 65489from the West Coast. This competition is evidenced in published cruise itineraries of foreign-flag carriers offering a variety of round trip cruises that depart from a U.S. port, call at several Hawaiian ports, then proceed to Ensenada, Mexico for a brief period, usually in the early morning, and ultimately return to the original U.S. port of embarkation where the passengers disembark to complete their cruise. These cruises are often marketed as “Hawaii cruises” and except for the brief stop in the nearby foreign port of Ensenada, are purely coastwise in nature. It is these cruise itineraries that pose an imminent threat to the two remaining U.S.-flagged, coastwise endorsed passenger vessels that, pursuant to the 2003 Act, are currently engaging in cruise itineraries that include only ports of call within the Hawaiian Islands.

V. Preliminary Notice

In response to MARAD's concerns, CBP sent letters to two carriers known to operate the itineraries in question, as well as to the Cruise Lines International Association, Inc., stating that CBP believes that these itineraries are contrary to the PVSA because it appears that the primary objective of the Ensenada stop is evasion of the PVSA. The letters further indicated that CBP is taking steps to publish this position.

VI. CBP's Proposed Interpretive Rule

Accordingly, in this document, CBP is proposing to provide that cruise itineraries for non-qualified coastwise vessels which allow passengers to board at a U.S. port, call at several Hawaiian ports, proceed to a foreign port or ports for a brief period, and then ultimately return to the original U.S. port of embarkation for disembarkation are not consistent with the PVSA and the regulations promulgated pursuant thereto. Specifically, CBP interprets a voyage to be “solely to one or more coastwise ports” even where it stops at a foreign port, unless the stop at the foreign port is a legitimate object of the cruise. CBP will presume that a stop at a foreign port is not a legitimate object of the cruise unless:

(1) The stop lasts at least 48 hours at the foreign port;

(2) The amount of time at the foreign port is more than 50 percent of the total amount of time at the U.S. ports of call; and

(3) The passengers are permitted to go ashore temporarily at the foreign port.

Accordingly, CBP proposes to adopt an interpretive rule under which it will presume that any cruise itinerary that does not include a foreign port call that satisfies each of these three criteria constitutes coastwise transportation of passengers in violation of 19 CFR 4.80a(b)(1).

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Dated: November 16, 2007.

W. Ralph Basham,

Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection.

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[FR Doc. E7-22788 Filed 11-20-07; 8:45 am]

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