Saturday, June 12, 2010

U.S. Senate Passes Cruise Ship Safety Legislation

Legislation to Enhance Cruise Ship Safety

As discussed in previous blog post  Keeping Cruise Ship Passengers Safe, there are several safety measures in place today which were implemented by the cruise industry.   Legislators have been reviewing the existing measures and believe there is room for improvement.

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed legislation by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) to increase security, law enforcement, and accountability on cruise ships in international waters.

Sen. Kerry is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which unanimously approved the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in July 2009.  Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) is the sponsor of companion legislation, H.R. 3360, which has already been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act will:
  • improve ship safety by requiring forty-two inch guard rails, peep holes in every passenger and crew member’s door, on-deck video surveillance, and an emergency sound system;
  • provide transparency in reporting by establishing a structure between the cruise industry, the FBI, and the Coast Guard, including requirements that each ship maintain a log book, which would record all deaths, missing individuals, alleged crimes, and passenger/crewmember complaints regarding theft, sexual harassment, and assault;
  • improve crime scene response by requiring rape kits, anti-retroviral medications, and a trained forensic sexual assault specialist be aboard each ship; and
  • establish a program designed by the Secretary of Transportation in consultation with the FBI to train appropriate crew members in crime prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment. 
Senator Kerry commented on the legislation:

“The term ‘duty free’ does not apply to the safety of passengers." He continued “Murky lines of jurisdiction are no longer an excuse for risking the safety of millions of Americans who will board cruise ships this year. I applaud my colleagues for helping to ensure that security, safety, and accountability be strengthened to hold criminals accountable and end the cycle of serious crimes on these vessels.”

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) supports the legislation

“This legislation brings greater consistency and clarification to many industry practices and existing regulations, including a longstanding federal requirement to report to the FBI allegations of serious crimes occurring in U.S. waters or involving a U.S. national anywhere in the world. The legislation also establishes additional safety provisions,” CLIA said. 

“The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA's number one priority. The cruise industry has reported allegations of serious crimes to federal law enforcement agencies for many years and looks forward to continuing our longstanding work with the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, and law enforcement both here and elsewhere around the world. The cruise industry has comprehensive policies and procedures that ensure guests are safe and secure while enjoying a cruise vacation. In fact, serious crime on cruise ships is rare, with millions of guests each year enjoying a safe cruise vacation.”

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