Last night, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a safety bill for cruise passengers which will require cruise ships to reports crimes on the high seas to the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The bill will require the cruise industry to comply with a number of security provisions including specific rail heights, peep holes, warning devices, and cabin security measures. The requirment that cruise lines must inform the FBI of disappearances and sexual assaults is important, because Cruise Lines Often Don't Report Crimes.
The bill is called the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" (H.R. 3360). It was authored by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA). Congresswoman Matsui (photo left) began convening hearings on the issue of cruise line when her constituent, and our client Laurie Dishman (pictured with her father Bill), approached her after being sexually assaulted aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in 2006.
The cruise safety bill is the result of the dedication of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) (photos of members below). We reported on the ICV's hard work last fall - Congress Passes Cruise Crime Law.
The House of Representatives passed the bill last November. We reported on this historic development last year in Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4.
Congresswoman Matsui commented that the safety bill "is a critical and common-sense fix which will provide safety and security to Americans who go on cruise vacations without realizing they are not protected under U.S. laws when they leave its territorial waters."
“H.R. 3360 will improve the safety and security of all cruise ship passengers traveling in and out U.S. waters,” said Rep. Matsui. “Current law doesn’t pass the test of providing common-sense security measures to the traveling public to help protect them from crimes committed aboard ships or to adequately prevent individuals from going overboard. Moreover, current law does not provide the support victims and their families need in the event of a disaster. This legislation is critical to providing the security and safety measures that all Americans need and deserve, no matter if they are on land or at sea.”
Senator John F. Kerry championed the cruise bill in the Senate. His constituent, Merrian Carver, disappeared under suspicious circumstances from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. The cruise line, Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises, did not alert law enforcement. Her father, Ken Carver, mounted an investigation which exposed a cover up. Mr. Carver then created the ICV to assist other passengers victimized on cruise ships.
Take a moment and read and watch the video: Ken Carver Fights for Cruise Ship Safety and Ken Carver Pushes For Cruise Law After Daughter "Disappears" From Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship
Senator Kerry issued a statement on the passing of the safety bill: “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.”
Mr. Carver commented "When the cruise safety legislation is signed into law, it will serve to protect Americans across the nation during what ought to be relaxing vacations. Without Congresswoman Matsui's efforts in the House and Senator Kerry's efforts in the U.S. Senate, this legislation would not have moved forward.”
After minor differences between the House and Senate version are reconciled, President Obama will sign the bill into law by July 4th!
Congratulations to the ICV for taking these steps to protect familes on cruise ships. Cruising will be safer due to your efforts.
For additional news coverage, read:
"Senate Passes Historic Cruise Safety Bill: Smith Family Applauds Measure" from the Greenwich Post.
Cruise Safety Bill Heartens Greenwich Victim's Family - regarding family of George Smith IV.
"Cruise Ship Crime Law Closer To Reality" WCVB TV5 (ABC) - Boston.
"Senate Passes Cruise Safety Bill, 5 years After Greenwich Man's Disappearance" from the Greenwich Post.
"Senate Passes Cruise Ship Safety Measures" from the South Florida Business Journal.