Pirates Beware: Cruise Line Purchases Acoustic Hailing Device

Cruise Ship Acoustic Hailing DeviceAccording to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, cruise ships are required to have "acoustic hailing and warning devices" in certain high risk areas. These devices emit a high pitched noise that is directed toward approaching vessels and causes intense pain to the ears of the vessel's occupants. 

The reason for this law is is to protect passengers and crew members from pirate attacks by repelling pirate skiffs from approaching and trying to board vessels on the high seas. You can read accounts of pirates attacking cruise ships here to see that the risk of such an attack is foreseeable.

Unfortunately, some cruise lines are not in compliance with this new law which was passed in 2010.

But today I read a press release indicating that a major cruise line has chosen to use HyperSpike Acoustic Hailing Devices (AHDs) to protect five cruise ships. The cruise line is not identified.

Cruise Ship Rapist Pleads Guilty and Sentenced to Jail, But the FBI Refuses to Post Crime Data for Public Viewing

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship RapeOne of the purposes of the new Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law is to educate the public regarding the sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships.

But as we reported in our article Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law, the FBI and Coast Guard - acting to promote the cruise lines' interests - undercut the Congressional purpose of the new cruise crime law. The cruise lines and these two federal agencies changed the language of the law to eliminate most cruise ship crimes from being reported.  

Originally all cruise ship crimes were required to be disclosed to the public.  But with the altered language, cruise crimes not reported to the FBI, or those crimes reported to the FBI and still under investigation, do not need to be disclosed to the public. 

You can read about about this issue in the Washington Post, USA TodayArizona Central and NBC Bay Area.

A good example of how the cruise lines are trying to hide crime statistics is a recent case this year involving a young girl raped on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. We reported on the crime in January.  A fifteen year old girl was lured from a teen club and raped by another teenager and a 20 year old man, Luis Scavone (photo left), on the last night of the cruise. The minor promptly reported the crime after she escaped from the rapists' cabin.

Royal Caribbean allegedly "sealed" off the crime scene and reported the crime to the FBI and the Broward County's Sheriff's Office in the cruise ship's home port. In Florida, local law enforcement also have jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas on cruise ships which return to a port in Florida.    

But rather than preserving evidence of the crime scene, Royal Caribbean unlocked the "sealed" cabin and cleaned the cabin.  It destroyed evidence in the crime scene.  Once the FBI learned of the cruise line's misconduct, it left the cruise ship and declined to prosecute.

The FBI was willing to let the two rapists (from Brazil) walk free after raping a girl. Even more disturbing is that the evidence destruction occurred on a cruise ship supervised by a former top FBI officer, Gary Bald (photo below left), who now heads Royal Caribbean's security department.

The FBI agents should have arrested cruise line employees for the destruction of evidence, but the FBI looked the other way and simply closed its investigation. The cozy relationship between the FBI and its former FBI agents, who are now working for the cruise lines, sometimes leads to the former and present FBI agents scratching each other's backs rather than protecting the public.

The Broward County Sheriff's Department, on the other hand, was not deterred by the cruise line's misconduct and arrested the two Brazilians. The State Attorney's Office for Broward County then prosecuted the two suspects and obtained guilty pleas from both.  The 20 year old Brazilian man pled guilty last week to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the rape of the girl.  He is now behind bars.   

Royal Caribbean Cruise - Director of Security Gary BaldYou would think that the rape of a child on the world's largest cruise ship would be documented on the online database maintained by the FBI and Coast Guard.  That was the intent of the cruise crime law. But the FBI decided not to report it. Take a look here at the FBI statistics.  There is not a single report of a sexual assault for Royal Caribbean in 2012. In fact, there is not one report of a violent sexual crime against a cruise passenger for the entire cruise industry this year.

In prior years, the FBI reported over 400 crimes on cruises a year.  But now with the altered language in the cruise crime law, the FBI and cruise lines are concealing crimes. The FBI online database lists only 13 sexual crimes for all of last year.   

The bottom line is that even thought the cruise rapist is in jail after pleading guilty to state prosecutors, the FBI refuses to reveal the crime to the U.S. public on the online database required by the cruise crime law.

There is monkey business going on here.

The FBI and the cruise lines who routinely hire FBI agents are in cahoots. Congress needs to investigate how they derailed the law.  And the U.S. public needs to know how a law designed to protect women and children on cruises has been sabotaged to protect the image of the billion dollar cruise industry.     

Are the FBI and Coast Guard Underreporting Cruise Ship Crimes?

One of the key provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is that crimes on cruise ships are suppose to be posted on the internet in order to provide a warning to the U.S. public. 

After listening to testimony over the course of the last five Congressional hearings, Congress concluded that cruise ship crime in general, and sexual assaults in particular, were such a problem that the U.S. public needed to be warned. 

Just last month, in the case of Jane Doe v. Princess Cruises, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that " .  .  . if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem."  The Eleventh Circuit cited the testimony from cruise line executives from the March 2006 Congressional hearing that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005.  During that same period, 24 people were reported missing and four others reported being robbed. 

In the March 2007 hearing, a FBI representative testified that from 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas.”   During those five years about 45% of the crimes that occurred on cruise ships involved sexual assaults.

In September 2007, a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI testified before Congress that “sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years, 55 percent and 22 percent respectively . . . . Employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.”  The FBI representative also testified that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted.

Although these numbers are significant, I have always thought that the crime statistics reported to Congress are probably just a fraction of the actual number of crimes which occur during cruises.  For example, in 2006, Royal Caribbean told Congress that 66 rapes and sexual assaults reportedly occurred over the course of the preceding three years.  However, in a subsequent civil case we handled, a trial court here in Miami ordered the cruise line to produce its raw crime data to us.  The reports revealed that the total number of sex-related crimes were actually around 273, including allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters."   

With the new cruise safety law, cruise lines were finally required to report incidents of homicides, suspicious deaths, missing U.S. passengers, assaults, sexual assaults and thefts over $1,000 to the FBI.  The U.S. Coast Guard, in turn, is responsible for posting the FBI cruise ship crime statistics on the internet for the public to view. 

So what do the crime statistics the Coast Guard posted on the internet reveal?

According to the United States Coast Guard Investigative Services' quarterly report from July 1, 2011 through September 30, 2011, not a single reportable crime occurred.    

Let me repeat that.  According to the just released FBI / Coast Guard report - not a single reportable crime occurred during the third quarter of 2011.

According to the FBI / Coast Guard's first quarter and second quarter reports, only a total of ten sexual assaults occurred in the first six months of this year. 

For 2010, the FBI / Coast Guard report disclosed only 28 sexual assaults on cruise ships.  For the first nine months of this year, the number has dropped to only 10 sexual assaults.

These numbers are not only far less than in any of the prior years, but they are even less than the number of crimes the cruise lines will admit occurred.  For example, last month a newspaper in New Zealand reported on a study which concluded that the risk of being sexually assaulted was twice as high on a cruise ship than ashore.  Royal Caribbean responded to the article by stating that it had 24 incidents of rape or sexual assaults last year.  Yet, in their 2010 report, the FBI / Coast Guard disclosed that Royal Caribbean had only 6 such incidents in all of 2010.    

The FBI does not inform the public of alleged crimes which are under investigation (this is permitted by the cruise safety law) and this may partially account for such low numbers.  But the reality is that the FBI investigations rarely lead to a prosecution.  Not disclosing crimes because they are allegedly "under investigation" by an agency whose investigations rarely lead to a prosecution does the public a real disservice.  

Also, the numbers which the FBI and Coat Guard chose to disclose to the public do not include incidents which the FBI determines lacks sufficient evidence of a federal crime or the FBI deems unworthy of conducting a full investigation.  This is the rather amazing part of these statistics.  The cruise safety law was passed in large part because of an incident where a passenger was clearly sexually assaulted, yet the FBI prematurely closed its investigation the same day that the cruise ship returned to Los Angeles after the crime occurred.  I am talking about the case of Laurie Dishman whose Congresswoman in California, Doris Matsui, was instrumental is passing the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in the first place.

Based on the FBI and Coast Guard's current method of responding to the cruise safety law, these agencies would probably not even disclose the cruise ship crime against Ms. Dishman if it occurred today.    

There is something very wrong here.  What should the U.S. public conclude by reading the recent third quarter FBI / Coast Guard statistics suggesting that not a single crime occurred on a cruise ship over the past three months?   Around 3,500,000 passengers sailed on cruise ships over the past ninety days, millions out of U.S. ports, and not a single crime occurred?

What a joke.

The FBI and Coat Guard are making a mockery of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act  - a law victims of crime worked hard to enact in order to protect future cruise passengers.

Its time for Congress to take another look at the way the cruise lines, FBI and Coast Guard are reporting - or in this case - not reporting cruise ship crimes.  

 

For an insight into the actual number of incidents of sexual assaults and crimes on cruise ships, we suggest following sites:

Sun Sentinel Data Base

Professor Ross Klein Cruise Crime Analysis October 30 2007 - September 1, 2008

Professor Ross Klein's Analysis  of Reports of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault on Royal Caribbean International, 1998 - 2005

AOL News: New Law Targets Dangers Aboard Cruise Ships

AOL News has an interesting article about cruise ship dangers.  Written by Tori Richards, the article is entitled "New Law Targets Dangers Aboard Cruise Ships."  It features Ken Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims organization.

Here is the article reprinted from AOL News:

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 28) -- Missing persons. Assault. Child molestation. Rape. Death. Those are some of the extras the cruise ship lines don't tell you about.

The industry suffered a black eye for the recent nightmare cruise aboard the Mexico-bound Carnival Splendor, but that's just a small sampling of the safety issues plaguing one of America's favorite vacation modes, victim advocates say.

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety ActAll sorts of dangerous incidents happen on ocean liners. But beginning next year, portions of a new federal law will give the FBI authority over crimes that occur on ships that have docked at U.S. ports.

"It's like a town serving unlimited drinks with no police," Kendall Carver said of the cruise industry. His 40-year-old daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship in 2004.

"Every two weeks someone goes missing from a cruise ship somewhere in the world – and those are only the ones we know about," Carver said.

Last year, the FBI received reports of 349 incidents on cruise ships. It opened investigations into 32 cases involving "serious crimes" -- including one death, three missing people, 20 sexual assaults and six assaults with great bodily injury. The names of the cruise lines involved were not available, nor were statistics from this year, an FBI official told AOL News.

A database of FBI reports from December 2007 to October 2008, available on the Sun-Sentinel website, shows 363 incidents. The vast majority were on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises.

None of this surprises Carver, who hears of incidents like this frequently as the founder of the non-profit International Cruise Victims which represents hundreds of people and is now in 20 countries.

Carver told AOL News he started the organization after spending years trying to find his daughter, Merrian Carver. During that time, he said, he ran into a cover-up by the cruise line, missing evidence and employees who were ordered not to talk.

The case has since been settled for an undisclosed sum, but Carver is still waiting for the answers he was looking for.

Merrian lived in Massachusetts and her father found an ally in the state's U.S. senator, John Kerry. They discovered that there were no laws pertaining to crimes aboard ships at sea. Soon they began to lay groundwork to change that.

"My daughter was the subject of five Senate hearings," Carver said. "The cruise lines spent $11 million in lobbyists to defeat this, but we still won even though we are just a group of regular citizens."

President Barack Obama signed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act of 2010 on July 27.

"This law will finally do away with the murky lines of jurisdiction that have put American cruise ship passengers at risk in the past," Kerry said in a statement. He also noted Carver's help in getting the legislation passed.

It will be 18 months from the date of signing before the law is fully implemented. However, parts of it will be enforced in stages. Beginning early next year, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation must have guidelines to carry out enforcement. By summer, training standards must exist for ship personnel.

The law requires:  

  • Peep holes and security latches on all passenger and crew doors
  • Electronic video surveillance that documents crimes to be made available to law enforcement
  • Passenger security guides with information on reporting crimes to U.S. law enforcement
  • Limits on crew access to passenger cabins
  • Staff with knowledge and equipment to perform rape exams
  • Free and immediate access to law enforcement
  • Prompt reporting of crimes, which must be contained in a log

"It's too soon to tell if it will matter," said Mike Ehline, a Los Angeles attorney who handles lawsuits against cruise lines. "I'm still getting the same types of issues with the cruise lines refusing to hand things over. They always have some excuse – like the video was out that day, it got lost, or it was erased on accident."

A Carnival spokesman did not want to comment on the new law. However, noting the high number of incidents reported on the Sun-Sentinel website, he said that Carnival carries more guests than any other cruise line with an estimated 3.9 million passengers this year.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for crime and any and all allegations reported to us by guests or made known to us via any other channel are reported to the FBI," Carnival's Vance Gulliksen said.

No one from Royal Caribbean was available for comment Friday.

According to language in the new law, "It is not known precisely how often crimes occur on cruise vessels or exactly how many people have disappeared during ocean voyages because cruise line companies do not make comprehensive, crime-related data readily available to the public."

It states sexual assault and physical assault as the leading crimes investigated by the FBI on cruise ships and it's difficult for law enforcement to gather evidence and conduct an investigation.

"Before, cruise lines would just say 'We are registered in this island or that, and we don't have to do this,'" Carver said. "Now, they will be banned from coming into our ports if they don't."

 

Story credit:  Tori Richards, AOL News

Photo credit:   Denis Poroy, AP (via AOL News) 

Congresswoman Matsui and Laurie Dishman Take on the Cruise Industry

In July, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.  On the President's right side in the Oval Office was Sacramento resident and my friend, Laurie Dishman.  On his left side, Laurie's Congresswoman, Doris Matsui.

Laurie Dishman - Congresswoman Matsui - Cruise Safety Law The new cruise law involves a remarkable story about the bravery of Laurie Dishman.  Laurie went on a Royal Caribbean cruise in February 2006 to celebrate her 35th birthday and her long friendship with her childhood friend, Michelle.  But instead of a fun cruise, a janitor with prior complaints of sexual harassment who was working as a part time security guard sexually assaulted Laurie in her cabin. 

When Laurie reported the rape, the head of the security department came into her cabin and sat on the bed where the rape occurred.  He handed her a statement form to complete and left her in the crime scene.  When Laurie was finally permitted to see the ship doctor, he handed her trash bags and told her to return to the cabin and collect her bed linens as evidence. 

Royal Caribbean thereafter refused to provide Laurie with copies of her own shipboard medical records or provide her with the name of the cruise line employee who raped her. 

In response to this outrageous treatment, Laurie reached out to her Congressional representative in California, Doris Matsui.  Congresswoman Matsui answered Laurie's plea for assistance, and called for a Congressional hearing to investigate the problem with crimes like this on cruise ships.

Congresswoman Matsui Goes after the Cruise Lines

Congresswoman Matsui began an investigation into the cruise industry.  She did not like what she found.  Royal Caribbean would not initially even commit to installing peep holes in the passenger cabin doors.  But Congresswoman Matsui was committed to helping Laurie and she found a number of allies in the House of Representatives, like Ted Poe from Texas, who are strong supporters of victim rights.  A sub-committee was formed to look into Laurie's case and other similar sexual assaults.  The sub-committee invited Laurie to testify about her ordeal.  But the cruise industry pushed back and tried to strike Laurie as a witness at the Congressional hearing.  From the time of the crime until the last hearing, the cruise lines spent $11,000,000 lobbying against the legislation.

As you will learn from the radio show the "Travel Guys Radio,"  the cruise line tried to wear Laurie down, but Laurie traveled from California to Washington D.C. 21 times at her own expense to tell her story in support of the new cruise safety law.  She appeared on the major television networks, cable news, and radio stations - and was interviewed by newspapers throughout the U.S.  

The "Travel Guys" interviewed Congresswoman Matsui who describes Laurie's bravery and the problems other crime victims experienced on foreign flagged cruise ships ("the cruise line didn't help her at all .  .  . ").  The interview of Congresswoman Matsui starts at 10:20 and ends at 20:10

Click here to play the radio interview: 

 

Laurie Meets President Obama in the White House 

Four and one half years after the crime on the high seas, Laurie was invited with Congresswoman Matsui to the White House by President Obama to watch him sign the new cruise law into effect.

Congresswoman Matsui - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety ActLaurie's interview starts at 21:20 and ends at 30:00.

You can hear how Laurie went from a victim to a victim's advocate in order to protect others.  As Congresswoman Matui explains, "without Laurie Dishmans in the world this would not have happened." 

 

For information about the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, consider reading:

Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4

Senate Unanimously Passes Cruise Safety Law

International Cruise Victims Celebrate New Cruise Safety Law in Washington D.C.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act - Finally Making Waves   

A Cruise Defense Lawyer's Summary of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

 

Consider joining the International Cruise Victims organization.  Make a difference! 

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act - Finally Making Waves

The Washington Post has published an article about the new Cruise Security and Safety Act, written by veteran travel writer Christopher Eliott.  Mr. Elliott is a a travel consultant for MSNBC and a writer for National Geographic Traveler magazine and for the Consumer Travel Alliance.

The article was originally entitled " A Long Way To Go To Ensure Passengers' Safety On Cruise Ships."  The article has been widely re-printed in newspapers across the U.S.  The article below is a re-print bearing the new title " Finally Making Waves About Cruise Security."

The article contains some quotes from me, my client Laurie Dishman, the President of the International Cruise Victims association Ken Carver, and the President and Founder of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network Scott Berkowitz.  Here is the article, unedited, which appeared in the Houston Chronicle newspaper:

Finally Making Waves About Cruise Security    

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act - Cruise Crime Maybe you don't think of a floating vacation as a dangerous activity — after all, the last headline-grabbing sinking of a cruise liner was that of the MS Sea Diamond, which ran aground in 2007 near Santorini, Greece; two passengers disappeared and were presumed dead.  The cruise industry also contends that it has an outstanding safety record when it comes to onboard crimes such as theft and assaults.

Just one little problem: The federal government doesn't require cruise lines to report these crimes in a meaningful and systematic way, so we have to take them at their word. And some passengers don't.

Laurie Dishman counts herself among them.  She alleges that a janitor on a Royal Caribbean cruise raped her in 2006.

"I felt humiliated," the marketing director for a winery near Sacramento told a congressional hearing the following year.  "I could not believe what had happened."  Dishman's riveting testimony exposed the shortcomings of cruise ship security, prompting her representative, Doris Matsui, D-Calif., to sponsor the new legislation.  "It became grossly apparent that current law was not protecting American passengers while at sea," said Mara Lee, a spokeswoman for Matsui.

The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act will address that problem by requiring cruise lines to report crimes promptly to the FBI and to post a link on their Web sites to a Transportation Department website listing crimes that have occurred on cruise ships.

"This will be the first time in the history of the cruise industry when a cruise ship is required to report a crime in international waters," said James Walker, a maritime lawyer based in Miami.  "The public can finally see the criminal database and determine which cruise ships have the highest crime rates."

Watch for more peepholes

Cruise lines will have to install peepholes in cabin doors and raise guard rails on many ships, and add on-deck video surveillance and an emergency sound system on all new ones.  The legislation also mandates better crime-scene response by requiring ships to carry rape kits and anti-retroviral medications and to have a trained forensic sexual assault specialist on board.

"In effect, passengers on cruise ships will start to obtain the same protection they would expect if they were at a resort here in the United States," said Ken Carver, the chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association, which advocates for victims of crimes at sea.

This law is undoubtedly a good start at regulating a business that has skirted many government regulations in the past. But is it enough?

I asked the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) about the measure, and the trade association sent me a surprisingly supportive prepared statement.  This regulation, it said, would bring "greater consistency and clarification to many industry practices and existing regulations," which include current requirements to report serious crimes to the FBI.

"The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA's number one priority," it added.

When I hear a trade organization that resisted this law nearly every step of the way talking like that, I can't help being a little skeptical.  (The cruise industry insists it cooperated.) So I asked Alexander Anolik, a former lawyer for several cruise lines who now practices in San Francisco, whether the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act holds water.

"It will make cruising safer," he said. "But it doesn't go far enough."

Safety at seaside

He'd like to see higher ship rails, for example. The law will require them to reach 42 inches above the deck, but they'd prevent more passengers from falling overboard if they were 54 inches.

Also, Anolik says the law should make more ships retrofit their cabins with essential safety features such as peepholes, security latches and time-sensitive key technology.

Anolik said cruise lines are probably unhappy with the legislation because, in his experience, they try to "make sure every crime is hidden."

It's hard for me to tell whether CLIA is being a dignified loser or whether it got some important concessions when the bill was being marked up. It probably doesn't matter.  Advocates for passengers see this as an important first step in improving cruise ship safety — not the last port of call.

Scott Berkowitz, the president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which supports the measure, said that he'd like future legislation to address legal jurisdiction when a crime is committed on a cruise ship.  "This can result in huge practical barriers to prosecution, such as requirements that the victim travel to another country — at his or her own expense — several times for hearings and a trial," he said.

But the law represents a critical and essential step forward, and Dishman says it will help others like her.

"If this law was in place when I was brutally raped, there would have been evidence for a prosecution and the assailant who raped me would not be free," she told me.

Royal Caribbean has said it has a "zero-tolerance policy regarding any criminal activity" on its ships, adding, "Any allegation of a crime is treated seriously and reported to law enforcement." The company reportedly settled a lawsuit with Dishman in 2008.

Still, cruise experts agree, laws can go only so far in protecting you.  Passengers should continue to pack their common sense when they go cruising, which includes taking practical steps such as securing valuables, drinking in moderation and staying away from a ship's dark corners.

Even with these new measures in place, and the possibility of future regulation, one thing seems certain: Just because the ship isn't sinking doesn't mean that it's safe.

 

Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and for the Consumer Travel Alliance, a new nonprofit education organization. His e-mail: celliott@ngs.org
 

Credits:

Article               Christopher Eliott, Washington Post,  Houston Chronicle

Photo                jimg944 Flickr photostream

International Cruise Victims Celebrate New Cruise Safety Law in Washington D.C.

Yesterday evening, the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization hosted a reception in Washington D.C. to celebrate the passing of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act.

The reception was held in the Capital building and was well attended by Congressional leaders and their staff, members of the ICV, members of victim and rape crisis non-profit organizations, and the press. 

The highlight of the reception included the appearance of Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D - CA) who introduced the new cruise safety bill in the House of Representatives after her constituent, Laurie Dishman, was a victim of a violent crime on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Congressman Ted Poe (R - TX) also attended and spoke at the reception.     

ICV President Ken Carver spoke to the group and chronicled the formation of the ICV and the struggle against the cruise industry over the past  five years to get the cruise safety law passed. 

Consider reading Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4 to learn more about the efforts to pass the new cruise law. 

Congratulations to Congress and the ICV members for their dedication and hard work!

Enjoy the photographs of the reception below:

 

  Congresswoman Doris Matsuit - David Fitzpatrick - Ken Carver

Above: Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA - D), CNN's David Fitzpatrick, and ICV President Ken Carver.

Below: Ken Carver with former New York Times and LA Times Editor Douglas Franz.

 

Ken Carver - Douglas Franz

Below: Ken Carver and ICV members and supporters.

 

Ken Carver - Laurie Dishman - International Cruise Victims

Senate Unanimously Passes Cruise Safety Law

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 Cruise Safety Law - Doris Matsui - Laurie Dishmanissue 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.”

International Cruise Victims - ICV - Cruise Safety LawSenator 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.”

Ken Carver - International Cruise Vcitims - Cruise LawMr. 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.

Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4

The House of Representatives passed the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act (HR 3360) today. This cruise bill was previously part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2009, but was voted on today as a 'stand alone" bill to speed up its enactment.  

Elijah Cummings - Cruise Safety LawCongress approved the bill by a resounding vote of 416 to 4.

A number of "All Star" Congressmen and Congresswomen spoke at the hearing today.  Here are the highlights of this historic event:

Cruise Ships - "Floating Pieces of Other Countries" - and the Need for  U.S. Laws to Protect Americans 

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) explained the problem of a lack of accountability of the foreign flagged cruise ships which become "floating pieces of other countries" once the ships are outside of U.S. waters. He recognized the need for cruise lines to adopt reasonable safety measures to protect U.S. passengers.  Some of the measures are simple and a matter of common sense, such as the Doris Matsui - Cruise Crime Law requirement that all doors be fitted with peepholes so that passengers inside cabins can determine who is outside of their doors.  Congress was previously provided with testimony of passengers who opened their doors and were raped by crew members. 

Other safeguards include the requirements that cruise ships maintain supplies of anti-retroviral medications for rape victims (to prevent HIV / AIDS) and employ trained personnel to collect and preserve evidence following sexual assault.  Cruise lines are also required to report sexual assaults and other crimes to the F.B.I. and U.S. Coast Guard and maintain a link to this data base on the cruise lines' websites.  This last measure is important because cruise lines have a well deserved reputation for concealing cruise crimes from the public.  

A Cruise Victim's "Courage, Conviction & Dedication"           

Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), who introduced the crime bill, thanked her constituent (and our client) Laurie Dishman for her "courage, conviction, and dedication" after she was raped aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Ms. Matsui explained that after the crime, the cruise line provided no assistance whatsoever to Ms. Dishman in securing the crime scene, or John Shedagg - Cruise Crime Lawidentifying the attacker, or in prosecuting the crime. The ship doctor gave Ms. Dishman a trash bag and told her to return to the crime scene and collect the evidence herself.  Congresswoman Matui characterized the need for the cruise crime bill as "urgent and necessary." 

Cruise Line "Outrageous Conduct and Callous Disregard" 

Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ) spoke of the "terrible story" of Merrian Carver who disappeared on a Celebrity cruise ship. Although this is any parent's worst nightmare, Celebrity's parent company Royal Caribbean tried to cover the disappearance up and then labeled it as a "suicide."  (We have commented on the cruise industry's nasty habit of claiming all "disappearances" are "suicides" in a prior blog "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea)  

Congressman Shadegg described Royal Caribbean's conduct of obstructing the efforts of Ms. Carver's parents to find out what happened to their daughter as "outrageous" and exhibiting "callous disregard."  He urged the adoption of the cruise law to protect other families who lose loved ones on the high seas.  A video of Mr. Shadegg is below.

"Disturbing & Startling" Large Number of Cruise Ship Crimes

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) criticized the cruise industry for concealing the large number of shipboard rapes.  He mentioned a "disturbing and startling" article in the LA Times ("Cruise Industry's Dark Waters") which revealed  that in a period of only 32 months Royal Ted Poe - Cruise Crime LawCaribbean had over 250 incidents of where cruise victims were sexually assaulted, battered or sexually harassed. (Our firm handled the case where a Court in Miami ordered the cruise line to reveal this information under a threatened sanction of $1,000 a day).   

Congressman Poe discussed Ms. Dishman's case where Royal Caribbean did nothing to assist her but sent her a letter after the rape thanking her for her business and enclosing a discount coupon for a future cruise!  He recognized Ms. Dishman for exposing the "atrocities" on this cruise line's fleet of cruise ships.

Cruise Ship "Culture of Indifference" Toward Victims

Congressman James Oberstar, the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also thanked Ms. Dishman who overcame her "terrible experience" with Royal Caribbean, found the "courage to testify" before Congress regarding her ordeal, and was "determined to see justice done."  He praised her for working to change "the culture aboard cruise ships of indifference" toward  crime James Oberstar - Cruise Crime Lawvictims.

On to the Senate!

The next step toward protecting the cruising public is a vote in the Senate.  

Great thanks for the tireless dedication of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization for supporting the introduction of this cruise safety bill!

Want to get involved in the ICV?  Contact the ICV's President Ken Carver kcarver17@cox.net

We have ordered the C-SPAN coverage of the hearing today and will be posting the ventire ideo in the next week.  Below is the video of Congressman Shadegg's comments regarding the daughter of one his constituients, Ken Carver: