There has finally been a decision on Florida’s lawsuit against the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Biden Administration on restarting cruise operations. However, it’s not a clear decision, and the two parties will have to work things out between them due to the judge ordering a mediation.
Judge Orders Mediation Between CDC and Florida
After several days since the CDC and the State of Florida, with the support of Alaska and Texas, had their day in Federal Court on May 12, we now have a new development.
Judge Steven D. Merryday has not chosen to allow cruises to restart or even sided with the CDC. Instead, the judge has ordered a mandatory mediation which means the two sides will have to resolve their differences. This will have to take place no later than June 1, and it will be mediated by lawyer Joseph H. Varner III as appointed by the court.
It’s probably not the news the cruise industry and the states wanted to hear, as it only extends the unknown and keeps cruise ships on hold. The state of Florida, which filed the lawsuit against the CDC in April, has been heavily impacted by the CDC’s No-sail Order and then the Conditional Sailing Order that was first introduced at the end of October 2020.
Cruise Suspension Impacts Florida, Alaska, and Texas
Florida is fighting to restart an industry that it heavily relies on. In the first six months of the pandemic, losses due to the cruise suspension totaled $3.2 billion across the state, along with 49,500 jobs paying $2.3 billion in wages.
On April 20, Alaska joined the lawsuit, and the state lost $3 billion due to the cancellations of cruise ship visits to the region. A major factor is the Passenger Vessel Services Act, where passengers ships must visit a foreign port if sailing out of the U.S. With the Canada cruise ban until 2022 cut off the vital income needed. However, there has been more positive development with a new bill passed in the senate.
Then, in early May, even the state of Texas joined in as the Port of Galveston has also been impacted by the cruise shutdown.
Cruises Can Restart in July
It will all now have to be resolved between them in the hope of getting cruises moving again. The CDC has already started discussions with cruise lines to work on a safe return of operations in July. Just yesterday, Carnival Cruise Line president and CEO Christine Duffy said they were in active discussions with the CDC.
The CDC has released its technical instructions that cruise lines have to work through to begin sailing, but many, including state officials, have called the guidelines largely unworkable and absurd.
The good news is that the agency is making changes to the instructions to make it easier. Just days ago, the details on testing were clarified with several new sections added. It does all push towards full vaccinated sailings, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out in the coming weeks.