HONOLULU - Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano said Monday he will ask Sen. Daniel Inouye to introduce legislation granting an exemption from the federal Jones Act to allow foreign-built cruise ships to operate between U.S. ports in Hawaii and Alaska.
The law prohibits foreign-built vessels from plying trade between U.S. ports. But it now forces the 2,200-passenger Norwegian Star, which arrived Saturday to begin inter-island cruises, to swing 600 miles south to Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati on each inter-island circuit, making the cruise an international voyage.
The governor, in a meeting with newspaper editors, said he'll ask Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, to consider legislation that would exempt cruise ships operating in Hawaii and to Alaska from the federal law.
He said getting an exemption might be hard because of the politics involved, although Inouye did get an exemption for the foreign-built Patriot to operate in Hawaii until its owner filed for bankruptcy in September.
Cayetano said he used to support the act.
"But the Jones Act as it applies to the cruise ships doesn't work anymore for the American shipbuilding industry because the American shipbuilding industry can't compete with the rest of the world," he said. "They do it better other places and do it cheaper."
The governor said he changed his position when American Classic Voyages Co. shut down its two Hawaii cruise ships, the Patriot and the Independence, in an October bankruptcy.