110 East Broward Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
Tel: (954) 522-4477
Fax: (954) 522-4499
Lawrence W. Roffee, Executive Director
U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20004-1111
Fed. Reg. Vol. 69 No. 27 Page 69224
Docket No. 2004-1 Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for
Passenger Vessels: Large Vessels
Availability of draft guidelines: notice of hearing
Docket No. 2004-2
Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Passenger Vessels:
Advance notice of proposed rulemaking: notice of hearing
Dear Mr. Roffee:
Silversea Cruises operates four Bahamian-flagged luxury cruise ships on worldwide itineraries. We launched our first ship, Silver Cloud in 1994, followed by Silver Wind in 1995, Silver Shadow in 2000 and our newest ship, Silver Whisper, in 2001. With these four ships, we are pleased to offer our guests an array of diverse and intriguing cruise itineraries, including voyages that call in United States ports. Consistent with ship safety and operations, we consider it a priority to provide accessible vacation experiences to all guests needing extra assistance and consideration.
We are a member of the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL), a Virginia-based trade association that represents the interests of 16 of the largest cruise ship companies, which operate over 115 cruise passenger ships. We request the hearing scheduled for January 10, 2005, regarding the referenced Dockets and subject, be rescheduled at a later date appropriately after the V.S. Supreme Court Decision in the case of Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line.
We request an extension of the date of the announced hearing based upon the following reasons:
• In order to offer educated testimony at the hearing on the Board's draft proposed guidelines, cruise lines require substantially more time to comprehensively review the text of the Access Board's draft guidelines. The recommendations of the Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee ("PV AAC") were issued four years ago, and we have not been privy to the ongoing internal discussions regarding these guidelines. Additionally, the draft proposed guidelines released on November 26th appear to diverge significantly from the PVAAC recommendations. In our view, a number of issues have been changed and/or new issues introduced. Consequently, the draft proposed guidelines must be reviewed fully prior to the scheduled hearing. At any time of the year, six weeks from the release of the draft proposed guidelines is simply an inadequate amount of time in which to prepare meaningful testimony on the numerous issues to be addressed. Given the intervening major holidays and the complexity of the rulemaking thus far, we urge you to extend this first hearing for a minimum of 6 months.
• The passenger vessel rulemaking raises issues unique to the industry and unlike those issues which characterize rulemakings undertaken by the Board for landside facilities in that passenger vessel guidelines are complicated by numerous maritime-specific issues. These include international treaties and U.S. Coast Guard regulations relating to safety; limitations on accessibility which are inherent in the context of moving, seagoing vessels, particularly in the docking (on-off) process; and the space limitations which characterize all passenger vessels.
• While the January l0th hearing may be but the first in a series, it will set the tone for the balance of the regulatory process, and will have a substantial impact upon its outcome. It is, therefore, essential that cruise lines have adequate time in which to prepare comments for this first hearing.
• Finally, the Board's issuance of the draft guidelines in the midst of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with several other major holidays occurring prior to the hearing and during the review period, severely limits the amount of time available for impacted entities to review and prepare comments. This is particularly true for the cruise industry, as this period is one of the busiest times of the cruise season and is critical to each company's bottom line. Under these circumstances, our ability to adequately address the myriad of important details in the Board's draft guidelines prior to the scheduled hearing will be severely limited.
During the past six years, ICCL participated in every passenger vessel-related meeting held by the Access Board - whether in a formal session, a hearing or an informal site visit (e.g.: New Orleans, Seattle). We plan to work in conjunction with ICCL to continue that dialogue, but considering the enormity of the issue coupled with the press of business during this season, and recognizing the multitude of questions posed by the Board, as well as the request for comment on the lengthy draft plan for regulatory assessment, we request an extension of the date of the announced hearing until an appropriate date after the decision of the Supreme Court concerning this issue.
With these points in mind, we also request an appropriate extension to the ending date for comments on the draft guidelines, until after the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the application to non-US passenger ships.
Chief Executive Officer
cc: James J. Raggio, General Counsel
DOIT Docket OST-2004-19700
T. E. Thompson