There Oughta Be a Law!

Micky Arison and other cruise industry bigwigs are pushing Congress to ship potential lawsuits overseas

"In order to clarify our intent on this issue, the term crew member will be inserted," promises ICCL spokeswoman Mary Lynch. "We have also clarified that the provision in no way affects claims involving sexual assault or rape."

Lynch dismisses such conflicts as issues of semantics, explaining, "Initially there were some ways that you could have misconstrued the House bill. Like any type of legislation, there are various ways to interpret it."

Senate staffers say Miami cruise ship executives apparently don't think their lobbyists are doing enough to sway opinion on Capitol Hill. They confirm that Carnival Corp.'s Arison, along with Celebrity Cruise Lines president Richard Sasso, met two Wednesdays ago in Washington with Sen. Larry Pressler and separately with other members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Pressler, a South Dakota Republican, chairs the committee, a number of whose members will now decide on the fate of the cruise ship amendment. Other conferees will be chosen this week from the House of Representatives.

This is quite irregular," says an aide to Sen. Ernest Hollings, a South Carolina Democrat who opposes the amendment. "It's the first time in years they haven't passed [the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act] quickly. And if it gets forced into a conference committee, that would be unprecedented. In the past we've worked out these differences informally. The fear among opponents is that we'll lose some procedural advantages if it does go to conference. No one knows if the cruise ship people have the votes to pull this off. But they figure they've gotten 50 percent there, they don't have much to lose."

U.S. Rep. Don Young, who first introduced the cruise ship amendment in the House last year, will likely be one member of the conference committee. Capitol Hill sources say he is counting on the support of fellow Alaska Republican, Sen. Ted Stevens. But in the face of stiff lobbying by amendment opponents, that support may now hang in the balance. "At this time, the senator is still determining his position," says a Stevens aide. Holland America Line and Holland America Westours, two subsidiaries of Carnival Corp., are the biggest cruise shippers and tour operators in Alaska and Western Canada.

Lynch, the cruise ship industry spokeswoman, declines to discuss her organization's legislative strategy. She points out that cruise ship executives from Miami had a reason to be in Washington on March 6: the Travel Industry Association of America's annual Travel and Tourism Industry Unity Dinner.

For now, Florida's elected heavyweights are keeping their distance from the amendment. Aides to senators Connie Mack and Bob Graham say cruise industry lobbyists and corporate execs have had no recent contact with their bosses.

"I'm not sure Senator Graham has a position," says one staffer. "As things come more to the forefront, maybe he will."

"At this point Senator Mack has not made up his mind," remarks another. "He is waiting to see the final language."

Cruise ship executives in Miami did not respond to requests for interviews regarding the cruise ship amendment and their trip to the nation's capital.

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