CLIA Goes Global Today – Other Cruise News: Holland America, Seabourn & P&O Cancel Argentina Calls – Australian Consumer Protection

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Lines International Association has announced today that it is going global and will in future have arms such as CLIA UK (the Passenger Shipping Association), CLIA Europe (the European Cruise Council), CLIA Brazil (ABREMAR) and CLIA Australasia (the International Cruise Council Australasia), among others. Meanwhile, with Argentina having refused to take any action to ensure the freedom of the seas for cruise ships calling on both Argentina and the Falkland Islands, some cruise lines are beginning to announce the cancellation of calls in Argentina while others are dropping the Falkland Islands. Finally, we see what progress (if any) is being made towards Australian consumer protection.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

CLIA Goes Global Today

Nine national and regional cruise industry associations have today announced that they will in future operate under a common organization with a unified structure to serve as the voice of the global cruise industry. The associations concerned are the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), European Cruise Council (ECC), Asia Cruise Association (ACA), Passenger Shipping Association, France’s AFCC, Brazil’s ABREMAR, the Northwest and Canada Cruise Association (NWCCA), Alaska Cruise Association (ACA), and International Cruise Council Australasia (ICCA).

Association members agreed to use the name Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) with the appropriate geographic designation, while the existing association offices will remain in place.

The new association was created to provide a globally unified voice for cruise lines, travel agents and business partners – all of whom contribute to an industry that creates nearly $100 billion in economic impact and more than 753,000 jobs worldwide. For cruise lines, the new association offers a one-stop global resource on technical and regulatory issues and unified global communication and event coordination, which better leverage cruise lines’ investment in association membership.

Christine Duffy

Christine Duffy, president and ceo of the Cruise Lines International Association

For travel agents, the new association offers more robust partnership programs and networking on a broader scale. For executive partners, it provides greater opportunities for customer and business partner development.

A global executive committee, chaired by Howard Frank, vice chairman, chief operating officer and member of the executive committee of Carnival Corporation & plc, will govern the new CLIA. Christine Duffy, president and ceo of the Cruise Lines International Association, will serve as the president and ceo, leading a team with responsibilities for international technical and regulatory issues, research, communications, industry relations and public affairs.

“We are now truly one industry with one voice,” said Howard Frank. “Given the tremendous growth and continuing globalization of the cruise industry, this evolution addresses the need to speak and act globally with a unified voice while recognizing the importance of local relationships. The new association will play a vital role in proactively shaping the policy and regulatory environments on a global level and promoting cruising with various constituencies through more effective coordination, communication and stakeholder engagement.”

It is said that the impetus for this move originated with the coordinated handling of the Costa Concordia tragedy in January of this year but there are many more issues that need to be addressed. Just one of these is how to handle Emission Control Areas, where the move to reduce the sulphur content of ships’ fuel to 0.1% by August 1, 2015, is likely to lead to huge increase in fuel costs. Others could include taxation and port costs.

One interesting aspect of this latest move is that while the cruise lines appear to be going global, more of them are at the same time prohibiting both clients and travel agents from making cross-border transactions from one country to another, which in itself would seem to be a form of restraint of trade. It will be interesting to see therefore if the consumer will really gain from this new association in being able to get the best cruise fare.

While there is no direct German membership in the new association, as there is for instance for France, cruising in Germany falls under a cruise committee at the DRV, the German Travel Association and would also fal under the European Cruise Council. Including river cruisers, Germany is already the second-largest cruise market in the world after the United States, and France, although making progress, is a long way down the pole. Meanwhile, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association is not part of the new association at all and will continue to operate as usual.

Of the most important members of the new CLIA, the European Cruise Council was established eight years ago now, in 2004, and it is six years since the then marketing and training-based Cruise Lines International Association merged with the Washington-based International Council of Cruise Lines, a lobbying organization, in 2006, to place both responsibilities under the single CLIA umbrella.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

Holland America, Seabourn & P&O Cancel Argentina Calls

Because of its stance on the Falkland Islands, and the war it lost to the UK thirty years ago, delays and protests have started occurring to cruise ships calling in Argentina that are also scheduled to call in the Falklands. And while Argentine ports are beginning to lose cruise business from cancelled calls, so are the Falkland Islands.

Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands

Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands

In Argentina’s case, it is losing not only some scheduled calls, but also a complete turnaround that has been moved from Buenos Aires to nearby Montevideo, in nearby Uruguay.

The first ship to be affected, earlier this month, was the Bahamian-registered 450-berth Seabourn Sojourn. When she left Buenos Aires on December 4 for a 15-day cruise, her departure was delayed by seven hours while port workers demanded that the ship not make a scheduled call on the Falklands. The Sojourn also cancelled her Ushuaia call last Monday for the same reason. Her next cruise is due to leave Valparaiso this Wednesday bound for Buenos Aires via the Falklands and further discussions are under way in Argentina so look for a further announcement.

Meanwhile, Holland America Line’s Dutch-flag 1,348-berth Veendam, on a 17-day cruise from Valparaíso to Buenos Aires, also dropped a call at Ushuaia, on the same day the Seabourn Sojourn was supposed to be there, because of possible demonstrations. Despite the fact that the Veendam’s itinerary no longer includes the Falklands, Holland America manages the Seabourn brand, so there is a connection. The Veendam dropped its planned calls on the Falklands earlier this year.

Yet another Carnival Corp & plc brand, P&O Cruises, has now announced that it will cancel all calls to Argentine ports by its 2,064-berth Arcadia and 710-berth Adonia on their 2013 world cruise itineraries. This decision follows occasions over the past year of vessels flying the red ensign not being permitted to call in Argentina or being delayed by local protests after the Argentine Confederation of Transport Workers approved a boycott of vessels flying the British flag. P&O’s ships are all registered in Bermuda, which flies the red ensign.

The Arcadia and Adonia will cancel planned calls at Puerto Madryn, Ushuaia and Buenos Aires on their respective cruises.  And where P&O was going to use Buenos Aires as a turnaround port, it will now use Montevideo instead. P&O, which will still call on the Falkland Islands, has been working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and local agents in Argentina to gain assurances from the Argentine government that its ships would be allowed to call on their ports.

But despite the UK government having formally summoned the Argentine ambassador to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London in order to lodge diplomatic complaints, such assurances have not been received. The UK is now expected to file claims against Argentina before the International Maritime Organization and to the World Trade Organization through the European Union. The Arcadia was due to sail from Buenos Aires on January 22 and Adonia was due to make an overnight call there on February 13-14.

Earlier this year both the Adonia and Princess Cruises’ 2,600-berth Star Princess were refused entry to Ushuaia because they had visited the Falklands. Both ships are registered in Bermuda. On January 4, the Star Princess is scheduled once more to make a cruise from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso that includes a call on the Falkland Islands. So are some other ships such as the Celebrity Infinity, which is registered in Malta.

Meanwhile, The London Daily Mail has reported that Regent’s 708-berth Seven Seas Mariner and Oceania’s 684-berth Regatta have both cancelled planned calls to the Falklands in early February. Both lines are owned by Prestige Cruise Holdings, part of Apollo Management. Earlier this month, Aida Cruises 1,180-berth Aidacara also cancelled a Falklands call following protests in Buenos Aires. Aida is another brand of Carnival Corp & plc.

The population of the Falkland Islands being about 3,000 and the tourism business worth about $16 million to the local economy, the loss of any cruise ship calls affects them quite seriously. A quarter of the local population is directly involved in cruise ship tourism.

Australian Consumer Protection

Australia’s Travel Compensation Fund is to be wound up and travel agent licensing legislation repealed after Australian consumer affairs ministers gave the green light for industry reform. But two states, South Australia and Western Australia, have refused to accept the recommendations and are considering their positions.

Earlier this month, the council approved by a majority a new Travel Industry Transition Plan to come into effect on July 1, 2013, with full implementation by 2015. Present supervision will end in mid-2013, followed by the repeal of travel agents’ legislation by mid-2014. Under the new system, there will be reliance on the Australian consumer law, and industry-led regulatory mechanisms and market based remedies such as credit card chargebacks to protect consumers. Funds will also be made available towards the creation of an industry-led accreditation scheme.

There will also be an effort to ensure that there is appropriate disclosure of consumer risk in agency transactions and to develop commercial solutions to address business insolvency. Most of the present Travel Compensation Fund’s $30 million in reserves will be distributed to the states and territories involved.

According to reports from Australia, this latest decision favours the larger travel conglomerates and leaves small agents out in the cold. So even though the Australian Federation of Travel Agents is celebrating the latest move, it all seems a bit loose and woolly compared to some other jurisdictions.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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