KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage Alaska reports that the cruise industry has filed suit to avoid paying Alaska's head count tax. In an article entitled "Sources: Cruise Ship Industry Files Suit Over Head Tax," Channel 2 reports that cruise lines are trying to avoid the $46 infrastructure tax levied at Alaska ports which the cruise ships use. The cruise industry will undoubtedly argue that the State of Alaska does not have the authority to levy taxes against foreign flagged cruise ships.
The lawsuit has been a long time coming. For the past year, Mickey Arison has been threatening to use Carnival's army of lawyers to sue Alaska to avoid the tax. There is a tradition in the Arison family of avoiding taxes. His father, Ted Arison, earned billions running his cruise empire from Miami. After retirement, the senior Arison denounced his U.S. citizenship and returned to Israel to try and prevent the United States from collecting estate and inheritance taxes.
The timing of the lawsuit in Alaska is odd. Yesterday, an environmental organization called the Friends of the Earth issued what they are calling the Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card. The report card grades the cruise lines' impact on the air and water. I first learned of the report in an article entitled which cruise lines are the biggest polluters? written by travel expert Anita Dunham - Potter. Carnival received a "D-" and Royal Caribbean received a "F."
The tar-like bunker fuels these cruise ships burn are nasty. And the sewage and waste waters discharged into the water are gross. Unlike Florida which is beholden to the cruise industry with its anything goes mentality, states like Alaska and California have demonstrated an environmental commitment to the quality of the air and water in their states' jurisdiction. The cruise industry already does not pay U.S. taxes because they register their companies and flag their cruise ships in places like Liberia and Panama. To quibble over a nominal tax designed to protect Alaska and its infrastructure is just the same old greed that this industry is known for.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) responded to the bad grades of its members by attacking the environmental group. In its new PR website called "Cruise Industry Facts," CLIA proclaimed: "fortunately, Friends of the Earth has no authority in the matter."
That pretty much sums up the cruise industry's attitude. Environmental group - no authority. We scoff at the notion that you can monitor or grade us. State of Alaska - no authority. You can't tax us. You can't control us. We will use the tax-free $30 billion we collect from U.S. tax-paying passengers each year to sue to avoid your measly tax, and then we will crap in your pristine waters.
Photo credit Friends of the Earth, via @ExpertCruiser