Pride Cruise Line has filed a lawsuit against the galveston Park Board of Trustees claiming that last year another city subdivision, the Galveston Wharves, negotiated a five-year contract with the cruise line which granted Pride exclusive rights to operate day cruises from any port facility or land owned by the city. The lawsuit was prompted by the Park Board's request for bids and final approval of Europa Cruise Line to operate day cruises from Sea Wolf Park, which is a city park under the Park Board's jurisdiction.
According to Rick Carter, Vice President of Pride Cruise Line, last year Pride negotiated an exclusive contract with Galveston Wharves. Although five or six different parties had the opportunity to bid on the contract, Pride's bid won them the exclusive berth at the Port of Galveston. "When Europa came in on city property, we felt we were being dealt with unjustly," Carter said. As far as the lawsuit is concerned, Carter said that they are just "trying to protect their (our) investment."
Barin Ettinger, attorney for Pride, said that the 1970 deed for the park from the federal government said for the next 30 years, Sea Wolf Park must be used for public recreation. "Therefore this commercial enterprise is not within the original deed," Ettinger said. Pride has requested a hearing with the National Parks Service concerning the utilization of the land, along with the Army Corp. of Engineers since according to Ettinger, Europa plans to place a permanent dock at Sea Wolf Park.
Europa is about to become a party in the lawsuit. According to sources, the Park Board of Trustees has brought them in to pay for attorneys' fees. According to Charles Liberis, Chairman of Europa Cruise Line, "we don't think anyone can grant exclusivity in a U.S. port of entry," which would be a restraint of trade. Liberis noted that they were unaware of any exclusivity when they began operations out of Sea Wolf Park in March.
Originally, Europa was planning to move the 500-passenger Europa Jet to San Diego but instead moved to Galveston and began operations last December on private property. Liberis said that they were granted a Texas license to operate and felt the vessel was more suitable for the Galveston market. Since they still have a San Diego lease, Liberis said that they are trying to find the right ship for the San Diego market, namely a ship which is larger than the Jet.
Within the next 30 days, Pride will file a plan to pull the company out of Chapter 11 with the state of Mississippi, where it had operated until moving to the Port of Galveston last December. Once Mississippi accepts the plan, Carter said the line will begin planning the purchase of an additional ship for operations.
At present, papers have been filed in the Bahamas to change the ship's name from the Pride of Mississippi to the Pride of Texas.