Cayetano now backs Jones Act exemption
By Bruce Dunford
Gov. Ben Cayetano has reversed course and said yesterday he now supports an exemption from the federal Jones Act that would allow foreign-built cruise ships to operate interisland tours.
The Jones Act forces the 2,200-passenger Norwegian Star, which arrived Saturday, to swing 600 miles south to Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati on each inter-island circuit in order to make it an international voyage.
The governor, meeting with newspaper editors from Maui and the Big Island, said he would ask U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai'i, to consider legislation that would exempt cruise ships operating in Hawai'i and to Alaska from the federal law prohibiting foreign-built vessels from plying trade between U.S. ports.
Getting an exemption might be difficult, he said, given the politics involved. But Inouye did get an exemption for the foreign-build ms Patriot to operate in Hawai'i until its owner filed for bankruptcy in September.
Cayetano said he once supported the rule.
"But the Jones Act as it applies to the cruise ships doesn't work anymore for the American shipbuilding industry, because the American shipbuilding industry can't compete with the rest of the world. They do it better other places and do it cheaper," Cayetano said.
The governor said he changed his position when American Classic Voyages Co. shut down its two Hawai'i cruise ships, the ms Patriot and SS Independence, in an October bankruptcy, and had its contract canceled for what were to be the first two American-made cruise ships since the 1950s.
"Senator Inouye is the key person in all these kind of things," Cayetano said. "But the political problems that amending the Jones Act brings about doesn't only include this little shipbuilding industry. It includes the airlines and everybody else."