Florida sues Biden administration in bid to restart cruise industry

The state of Florida is suing the US federal administration in federal court, seeking to block the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to prevent the US cruise industry from immediately resuming operations that have been paused for a year because of Covid-19.

The suit, filed in Tampa on Thursday April 8th by Republican Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody in Tampa, asked the court to issue an injunction barring enforcement of the CDC’s order and promptly to lift a “nationwide lockdown” on the industry that had been in place since March 2020.

Florida is a significant hub for the US cruise ship industry. The state said that its ports had suffered a decline in operating revenue of almost $300m since the pandemic started.

Recently some of the leading cruise ship brands have said that they might have no option but to move the homeports for cruises away from the US if the CDC continued to block the resumption of cruise holidays.

Taking the side of the cruise lines against the CDC, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that “we must allow our cruise liners and their employees to get back to work and safely set sail again”.

On Friday the CDC issued new guidance to the cruise industry to bring it more up to date in the light of vaccination roll-outs, but did not set a date for resuming cruises.

Florida said in its lawsuit that “it now appears the CDC will continue that lockdown until November 2021, even though vaccines are now available to all adults who want them.”

The immediate response of the CDC and Washington was to stonewall.

The CDC declined to comment on the suit, while White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters when asked about the litigation only that “the CDC guidance is based on data and health and medical guidelines”.

Florida asserted in the lawsuit that if a judge did not block the CDC’s order it would cause the state to lose “hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions. And, more importantly, the approximately 159,000 hard-working Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry could lose everything.”

The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents Carnival Corp, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises, said on Monday the CDC guidance meant that there was now “no reasonable timeline” for resuming cruises. “With no discernible path forward or timeframe for resumption in the US, more sailings originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere are likely to be announced, effectively shutting American ports, closing thousands of American small businesses, and pushing an entire industry offshore,” the CLIA said.