In a huge victory for labor unions, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ruled against the Department of Commerce in a case that challenged the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) power to regulate the cruise ship industry.

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against a challenge to the Cruise Vessel Environmental Protection Act, or CVEPA, on Tuesday, saying that the law is constitutional even though the plaintiff in the case, the Ocean Cruising Club of America, claims it is in violation of its First Amendment rights.

Last night, a panel of justices from the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the CDC’s stance in its continuing legal fight with the state of Florida over the agency’s authority to enforce COVID-19 rules on the cruise ship industry.

The CDC’s Conditional Sail Order (CSO) in Florida would have been enforced if Federal District Judge Steven Merryday had not issued an injunction on June 19, which would have prohibited the public health agency from doing so. This would have made the CSO’s extensive system of rules, designed to guide the safe resumption of cruise ship operations, mere suggestions rather than obligations for cruise companies to comply.

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Court Upholds CDC’s Right To Regulate Cruise Ship Operations Amid COVID-19

The panel’s two-to-one decision was handed down Saturday night only minutes before midnight, just minutes before Florida’s injunction against the CDC was scheduled to take effect, according to USA Today.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis initially sued the CDC in April, claiming that the federal agency had overstepped its jurisdiction and was upset at the possibility of losing state income produced by the multibillion-dollar cruise industry as the summer season neared.

He also signed an executive order prohibiting Florida companies from requiring proof of vaccination from their clients, including cruise lines. Multiple major cruise companies were compelled to change their policies for Florida departures after initially announcing that all eligible passengers would be required to get vaccinated prior to sailing when cruises resumed.

Except for Norwegian Cruise Line, which threatened to move its operations out of Florida if DeSantis continued to try to undermine the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order. In fact, Norwegian had submitted court documents in favor of the CDC’s regulations, which were established in close collaboration with major cruise companies. And, only a few days ago, Norwegian filed its own lawsuit against Florida to reclaim the authority to demand that all eligible passengers be properly vaccinated before flying again in August.

On July 6, the CDC filed an appeal against Merryday’s injunction against the CSO’s framework for the safe restart of cruise operations, defending the CSO and stating, “It does not shut down the cruise industry, but rather provides a sensible, flexible framework for reopening, based on the best available scientific evidence.” “Undisputed data indicates that uncontrolled cruise ship activities will increase the spread of COVID-19, and that the damage to the public that such operations would cause cannot be undone,” it said.

“Cruise ships are particularly positioned to transmit COVID-19, owing in part to their tight quarters for passengers and crew for extended periods of time, and pauses at foreign ports that risk bringing new strains of Covid-19 into the United States,” the government said.

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