Today I read a press release by the U.S. Coast Guard about a maritime safety exercise conducted in the waters of Freeport Grand Bahamas.
U.S. Coast Guard crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Diamondback conducted a safety exercise with Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas on April 2, 2013. The exercise was called "Black Swan" and was described as "a joint offshore emergency exercise" coordinated by the Coast Guard, the cruise line industry and the Bahamian government.
You can see from the photos, taken Chris Todd, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, that multiple Coast Guard vessels were involved.
The cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International association (CLIA) touted the exercise as part of the cruise industry’s commitment to safety. CLIA CEO Chritine Duffy said the exercise:
" . . . further strengthens the cruise industry’s unwavering commitment to emergency preparedness in coordination with the Coast Guard and other government authorities . . . (and) underscores the focus we maintain on our No. 1 priority: the safety and comfort of our guests.”
What CLIA does not mention is that the cruise industry does not pay for the Coast Guard services even though the cruise lines collect over $35,000,000,000 (billion) a year but pay less than 1% a year in local, state, federal and international taxes a year.
The Coast Guard is severely under-funded but receives absolutely no reimbursement from the cruise lines. The cruise industry then uses the exercises (paid for by U.S. taxpayers) as part of its marketing to sell cruise tickets to the tax-paying public.
The cruise lines have rightfully been criticized for not reimbursing the Coast Guard for rescuing vessel at sea. But there are many, many other expenses which the Coast Guard incurs which the cruise lines do not reimburse, such as daily Coast Guard escorts into and out of U.S. ports, safety exercises, and medevac airlifts of ill crew members and passengers.
At a time of financial crisis in the U.S., it is obscene that the cruise industry gets a free ride from our federal government for services like this. A friend just emailed me about this PR exercise by the cruise lines: "what a gross waste of money by US taxpayers in support of an industry that is so arrogant and exploitative of US resources."