The Anchorage Daily News has an interesting editorial today by Alaska resident and green water scientist Gershon Cohen entitled "Power to the People, Not the Cruise Industry." He characterizes Governor Parnell's decision to reduce the cruise "head tax" from $46 a cruise passenger to only $19 as a sell out to the Miami-based cruise lines.
Dr. Cohen is right. The citizens of Alaska voted for the tax to protect their state and its beautiful waters from exploitation and pollution by cruise ships operated by Carnival and Royal Caribbean and their subsidiaries - Celebrity, Holland America Lines, and Princess Cruises. Governor Parnell's unilateral decision to dump 60% of the cruise tax approved by Alaskan voters raises the question - who is calling the shots here? The people of Alaska or Carnival's tax-avoiding Mickey Arison?
Dr. Cohen has a right to be sensitive about Carnival's control over the politics in Alaska. When Dr. Cohen was appointed to a waste water panel which regulated cruise ship emissions, the cruise industry complained and Dr. Cohen was unceremoniously removed.
I written many articles about how foreign incorporated cruise lines pay zero federal taxes on the $35,000,000,000 (billion) in cruise fares from mostly U.S. tax-paying citizens - by flagging their cruise ships in foreign countries. And there is no doubt that the cruise lines are making money hand over fist. Just the other day, Forbes announced three cruise tycoons as some of the richest people in the world - "Cruise Line Fat Cat Billionaires."
The Miami cruise lines may be rich, but its the people of Alaska who have the power. Unless they want to follow Governor Parnell's lead and roll over and play dead for Mickey and his Miami-based cruise ships.
Additional Information to Consider: In 2009, Alaska issued a record number of waste water violation notices to the cruise industry. The citizens of Alaska are smart to assess a fair tax against these cruise ships to protect their waters and support the state's infrastructure.
The major polluters and violators of Alaska's environmental laws were Princess Cruises (photo above) and Holland America Lines (HAL). Listen here for audio from a local NPR station in Sitka, Alaska.
Princess cruise ship Ed Schoenfeld (via NPR KCAW-FM)