The state of Florida has filed a lawsuit to get cruise ships sailing again, saying the federal lockdown on the industry has brought it to the “brink of financial ruin.”
Cruises in the U.S. have been banned since the Trump administration ordered the lockdown in March 2020 amid COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths on multiple ships. A “conditional sailing order” issued by the Centers for Disease Control in October provides a four-phase framework for resuming cruises.
But in a complaint filed against U.S. health officials on Thursday, the Florida attorney general’s office is asking a federal court to “set aside the CDC’s unlawful actions and hold that cruises should be allowed to operate with reasonable safety protocols.”
“We don’t believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry for over a year, based on very little evidence and very little data,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference.
According to the Federal Maritime Commission, the cruise shutdown cost Florida, which accounts for about 60% of U.S. cruise embarkations, about $3.2 billion in economic activity during the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Every day the federal government unfairly keeps this economic giant docked, our economy suffers,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said.
The CDC has said it is committed to working with the cruise industry to restart cruising following its phased approach and according to industry analysts, cruise operators have raised enough capital to last at least another year without U.S. cruises.
“Our focus is trying to work with the CDC on a plan to resume cruise operations this summer,” a Carnival Corp. spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times.
But the Florida suit says the lockdown has brought the cruise industry to the “brink of financial ruin” and that the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, the resumption of cruises abroad, and the reopening of other industries including airlines have rendered “the burdensome four-phase [cruise] reopening process obsolete.”
“If the U.S. cruise industry does not reopen soon, cruise lines are considering relocating abroad,” the suit warns. “They may never come back.”