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Articles from 2006 In September


Congress extends passport deadline

Congress extends passport deadline

Cruisers had been facing a deadline of Jan. 8, 2007, and lines were concerned that confusion over the new requirement plus the cost of obtaining a passport would hurt the short-cruise business in particular.

Congress on Friday passed the fiscal 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which contains a provision known as the Stevens-Leahy Amendment. The rider extends the implementation date for a passport or other accepted identification document under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative until the U.S. can develop a plan that meets standards for the new identification cards to make them easy to use, affordable and ensure privacy, or by June 1, 2009, whichever is earlier.

A PASScard, the economical alternative to the passport, will be available for sea and land borders. Passports for air travel will still be required starting this January.

'The cruise industry applauds Congress' efforts to increase security at our borders but to do so reasonably,' said Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines. 'We will continue to work with the government to raise awareness of the requirements and encourage the traveling public to secure proper identification.'

Crye told Seatrade Insider the passport extension will have the biggest impact on the short-cruise market, where a high percentage of travelers are going abroad for the first time and where the price of a passport can balloon the cost of a quick getaway.

Although the proposed PASScard is not finalized, a price of $50 is being discussed - half the cost of a passport for an adult. The document would be valid for five years, while a passport is valid for 10 years for adults and five years for children.

Since passports will become mandatory for air travel as of Jan. 8, passengers who fly in conjunction with their cruise will still need to present a passport. 'So it's still going to be a fairly confusing thing,' Crye said.

In part because it would alleviate confusion, ICCL has lobbied long and hard for a uniform deadline for passports for air, sea and land travel throughout the hemisphere. Although that will not be the case, the bill passed by Congress 'provides a more reasonable timeline' than the earlier Jan. 8 proposal for sea and land borders, Crye said. 'It will still be helpful, particularly to people who are taking short cruises and to people who are cruising with kids.'

He added: 'We're still going to be urging people to go out and get their passports.'

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AAPA hails SAFE Port but cites funding shortfall

AAPA hails SAFE Port but cites funding shortfall

S. ports against terrorism.

The bill calls for $400m in federal Port Security Grant funding for each of the next five years.

AAPA president Kurt Nagle said this 'important' legislation will enhance port security, strengthen the lone federal program that helps America's ports harden their facilities against terrorism, and reduce the potential for terrorists or weapons to reach U.S. shores via maritime commerce.

Yet Nagle noted that for the upcoming fiscal year, 'dramatic differences remain between the amount Congress recommended for port security and what it will actually fund.'

In the bill passed yesterday to fund Homeland Security in fiscal 2007, Nagle said only about half of the Port Security Grant funding authorized in the SAFE Port Act ($210m of the $400m) was actually appropriated. The AAPA president described his member ports as 'troubled' over the shortfall.

'Considering the high cost of implementing port security, including the new Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) system announced last spring, ports more than ever need a greater federal partnership in their efforts to harden their facilities against terrorism,' Nagle said.

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More access to the Great Barrier Reef

More access to the Great Barrier Reef

Doyle was commenting on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's decision to open four new anchorages at Moore Reef, Norman Reef and Agincourt Reef.

'We regularly receive enquiries from cruise companies about access to these areas,' Doyle said.

A statement issued by the GBRMPA said the decision to open the anchorages was based on community feedback and an environmental assessment carried out by representatives of the Royal Australian Navy's hydrographic office, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Australian Reef Pilots.

'The anchorages are located on soft seabeds, not coral or rocky outcrops, so this will ensure the World Heritage protected Great Barrier Reef is not harmed,' the statement said.

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US lawmakers weigh passport delay

US lawmakers weigh passport delay

As it now stands, passports will become mandatory at sea borders as of Jan. 8.

Cruise industry sources said there is strong support in both the House and Senate to delay the passport requirement to June 2009. The language that would postpone the passport deadline has been inserted into the 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill.

The House is considering the legislation today, and the Senate is expected to take it up tomorrow.

An extension of the passport deadline would help remove some of the 'overhang' that has been affecting the cruise industry for several months, according to Robin Farley of UBS Investment Research. The timing of the change is important, too, she said: If it occurs before January/February, it could remove 'a significant risk' to the yield outlook before wave season.

'That timing is key because it is difficult to recover from a challenging wave season,' Farley wrote in research note.

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Everglades director to lead council

Everglades director to lead council

Allen said the purpose of the FSTED Council is to establish statewide funding for seaport development, forge economic development initiatives and make recommendations to the Florida Department of Transportation for enhancing intermodal connections for the movement of freight and cruise passengers.

Allen will serve a two-year term as FSTED chair.

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US cruise operators wary on Libya

US cruise operators wary on Libya

S. citizens are not currently being allowed to disembark in port, on blanket or individual tourist visas. However, the situation could change at any time.

Some lines are going forward, with Americans advised they likely will not be able to disembark, and those with calls planned in 2007 are closely monitoring developments.

There is no problem for most non-U.S. passengers arriving on any ship, but Israeli citizens are reportedly being denied entry.

Crystal Cruises is dropping an October call because of the uncertainty of the visa situation for U.S. customers. 'It initially seemed to be such a promising new cruise port for us ... and others,' said spokesman Mimi Weisband. An October 2007 visit remains on the schedule. 'Given that it's more than a year out, we're still watching it,' Weisband noted.

Silversea Cruises is going ahead with calls on Oct. 10 and Nov. 1 but hasn't made a decision about 2007, spokesman Brad Ball told Seatrade Insider. More Europeans than Americans are booked on the two upcoming sailings. Some Americans have canceled, while others are opting to sail 'because the calls to Libya are only a small part of the entire voyage,' Ball said. 'They view it as an extra "sea" day, while still being able to enjoy all the other port calls.'

An operator with November calls described the situation as very difficult. 'We were hoping against hope they would go back to individual travel visas but even that doesn't look like it's happening,' said a senior executive for the line, who asked that his company not be named. His line is going ahead with the calls, and also has Libya on itineraries in 2007. 'It's an unbelievable port of call,' he said, citing the archaeological wonders that are accessible from several coastal gateways.

Libya is scheduled for Seabourn Cruise Line in May (Derna and Tripoli) and in late October 2007 (Tripoli). 'Hope springs eternal,' said spokesman Bruce Good. 'We have it on the schedule and will take the same approach as last year: If they will allow all guests ashore regardless of nationality on a blanket landing permit, we will call.'

Good noted that Seabourn had to divert in late April, substituting three Greek ports for two days in Tripoli. 'We kept guests apprised and gave them three updates as the date approached, telling them what we were trying to do, and what we would do if the Libyans didn't allow US guests to visit,' he said. 'As a result our guests shared the endeavor with us and they, like us, were sorry but not crushed. We are doing the same thing this year, and we hope for a more favorable response from Libya.'

A notice on Costa Cruises' North American website states that passengers of American nationality, or of another nationality born in the United States, are not allowed to disembark at Tripoli, adding that the situation could change. Costa further notes that Israeli-born passengers and holders of Israeli passports or passports containing an Israeli stamp (current or expired) will be denied boarding. 'We recommend obtaining a new passport without any Israeli motifs,' Costa advises.

Oceania Cruises has Libya on an April itinerary. 'We're watching the situation with interest,' spokesman Tim Rubacky said.

Earlier this year, SeaDream Yacht Club announced plans to add Libya in 2008. That's still in the cards, if things work out, said spokesman Ernie Beyl.

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SeaDream appoints manager, land adventures

SeaDream appoints manager, land adventures

He will report to, and work closely with, Claudius Docekal, senior director, land adventures and itinerary development.

Wilson will manage administrative and operational aspects of SeaDream's land adventures and will join Docekal in developing a new program using shipboard staff to personalize and tailor shore experiences for individual passengers. More details will follow.

A native of New Zealand, Wilson joined SeaDream after serving for five years as executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, based in Fort Lauderdale. Earlier, he operated his own New Zealand destination management company, The Wilson Group.

For 15 years, Wilson served as land programs director and shore excursions manager for Royal Viking Line.

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Report: Group bids to manage Egypt terminal

Report: Group bids to manage Egypt terminal

The wire service said the consortium's offer was the only submission, and a response is awaited from the Egyptian Ministry of Transport.

A Royal Caribbean spokesman told Seatrade Insider his company has no comment at this time. A request for information from Kadmar Travel was not immediately answered.

Kadmar Travel is the destination management arm of the Kadmar Group, which also provides shipping agency and logistics services. Royal Caribbean is a shareholder in Ege Ports, which operates the cruise terminal in the Turkish port of Kusadasi.

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New brand promotes apos;boutiqueapos; sailings

New brand promotes apos;boutiqueapos; sailings

The company plans 215 departures from cities including St. Louis, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Portland (Ore.) and Juneau, with voyages ranging from three to 12 days.

A division of Ambassadors Cruise Group, Majestic America Line was formed this year by combining American West Steamboat Co. and Delta Queen Steamboat Co.

Next year, the 142-passenger Queen of the West will sail the Columbia and Snake rivers, while the 223-passenger Empress of the North explores Alaska's Inside Passage and ventures into the mouth of the wild Stikine River.

The 436-passenger American Queen, 174-passenger Delta Queen and the 416-passenger Mississippi Queen will ply the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, and such tributaries as the Arkansas, Cumberland and Tennessee rivers.

Majestic America Line said it will emphasize quality, enrichment programs that deepen the cruise experience, diverse shore excursions and warm, attentive service.

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Aker outlines Finnish-French strategy

Aker outlines Finnish-French strategy

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The company said traffic between the cities of Turku and Saint-Nazaire, where Aker's post-Panamax cruise facilities are located, has been heavy since the merger plans were announced in early January. Fourteen task forces consisting of French and Finnish employees have been evaluating synergies and best practices to prepare suggestions for the executive management team's approval.

Aker joined the French and Finnish builders to boost post-Panamax capacity. The new unit combines the cruise-ship building traditions of both countries, which have produced such icons as the SS France, Queen Mary 2 and the Voyager- and Freedom-class vessels.

Aker's strategy uses cross-border capacity and capabilities. For example, cooperation between the French and Finnish yards began even before the integration process when sections of a ferry in the Finnish orderbook were manufactured in Saint-Nazaire due to available capacity.

Aker noted that after signing the biggest contract in its history, two 150,000gt ships for NCL Corp., the company has built or is building all 12 of the world's largest cruise vessels.

'We think the best way to predict the future is to create it,' said Yrjö Julin, president of Aker Yards Cruise & Ferries, adding that there are 'many more innovations to come.' Julin identified Aker's key objective as building trust with suppliers and partners and said the new arrangement with France opens opportunities for marine industry networks in France, Finland and elsewhere in Europe.

Aker's Cruise & Ferries division now consists of five yards: Saint-Nazaire and Lorient in France and Turku, Rauma and Helsinki in Finland. Turku's building dock measures 365 x 80 meters and is served by a 600-ton gantry crane. Saint-Nazaire's dock is 885 x 65 meters, with a 750-ton gantry crane.

The Helsinki yard now specializes in car-passenger ferries, and the Rauma yard is a leading ferry builder, with additional specializations in small cruise vessels, multipurpose icebreakers and naval craft.The Lorient yard produces high-tech vessels of 30 to 140 meters in length.

Aker's EUR6.5bn orderbook consists of 17 newbuildings including the world's three largest cruise vessels, for Royal Caribbean, the pair of post-Panamax ships for NCL and four vessels for MSC Cruises, plus five options for RCCL, NCL, MSC and others.

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