Though I have been keenly following all the developments related to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I have not written much about it because, at this point, the spill has not had a substantial impact on the yacht charter industry. With luck (and we will need lots of it), the parts of Florida where charters typically occur will remain free from tar balls and oil slicks washing up on the beaches.
I also have been quietly, but keenly following developments in Washington, D.C., regarding the cruise ship industry. On Friday, the Senate unanimously passed legislation designed to increase security, law enforcement, and accountability for crimes that happen aboard cruise ships. This legislation is one result of hearings that I attended nearly three years ago, when cruise ship crime victims demanded better protections than are currently in place.
These two stories came together this morning in The Atlantic, which posted this article about how the cruise ship industry has vociferously fought any attempts by Congress to change the 90-year-old Death on the High Seas Act. That law limits the liability payments that corporations face when someone dies aboard an ocean-going vessel.
It wasn't until I read today's article that I realized British Petroleum will likely be protected by this same law for anyone who dies from injuries suffered aboard an ocean-going vessel during the continuing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico--including the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded. In some cases, the Atlantic reports, BP would be legally required to pay victims as little as $1,000, all because of this law that the cruise ship industry has spent more than $2 million to keep on the books.
I've written time and again about the reasons for choosing private yacht charter instead of cruise ships for your next vacation, with one primary reason being that charter makes less of an environmental impact. This new article in the Atlantic makes me want to scream that message like a banshee.
Put simply: When you choose a charter yacht, you are making a decision to vacation in a more environmentally friendly way. When you choose a cruise ship, you not only are leaving a bigger carbon footprint, but you are also putting money into the pockets of cruise industry lobbyists who now share an incentive with British Petroleum to minimize restitution payments in the wake of the biggest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.
Want to do something good for the besieged people in the Gulf of Mexico? Book a charter yacht vacation this summer. Vote with your pocketbook to funnel money away from cruise industry lobbyists. Don't give them another nickel to protect this law and, by extension, BP's limits of liability.