The House Merchant Marine Subcommit­tee held hearings to examine methods of increasing the U.S.-flag presence in the domestic cruise industry in Washington on May 7, 1985.

Among the key issues debated were: (1) Should Congress enact legislation granting foreign-built, reflagged vessels temporary or permanent coastwise trading privileges? (2) Should vessels that are partially built in a foreign shipyard be allowed to engage in the coastwise trade? and (3) Should U.S.-built vessels that are reconstructed overseas be permitted to retain their coast wise trading privileges?

Testimony was heard from H.E. Shear, maritime administrator of the Maritime Administration Dept. of Transportation, Robert Lambert, president of Cruise Amer­ica Line, J. Barry Snyder, president of Signet Cruises, George Sotir, president of United States Cruises, and representa­tives from several organized labor unions.

The economic feasibility of building a competitive luxury liner in an American shipyard was a major source of contro­versy, with proponents of reflagging claiming that the prohibitively high cost of American building left no alternative. Noting that no large passenger vessel has been built in the United States in over 25 years, they proposed that Congress allow foreign vessels to reflag and obtain coastwise privileges, and amend the legislation after a period of two or three years, according to the development of the U.S. cruise industry.

At the other end were those who claimed that reflagging would severely harm the U.S. shipyards.