Today, the House of Representatives passed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2009.  This is a remarkable event.  For the first time in the history of the cruise industry, cruise lines are now required to report crimes which occur on cruise ships to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.  There has been an epidemic of rapes on cruise ships over the years, and the cruise industry is notorious for its lack of transparency and its cover up of such crimes.

This is quite a milestone. No one in South Florida has the courage to take on the cruise industry and enact legislation like this. Victims had to look 3,000 miles away from Miami – the Cruise Capital of the World –  to a leader in Sacramento, California to get the job done.

Thank You Congresswoman Matsui and the International Cruise Victims Association

The bill is the result of the hard work of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") association, led by Laurie Dishman Doris MatsuiKen Carver whose daughter Merrian disappeared on a cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises. The legislation was introduced by California Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) whose constituent, Ms. Laurie Dishman was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Ms. Dishman is a client and good friend of the firm.  She has worked tirelessly with the other ICV members to make sure that legislation like this is enacted to protect the traveling public.

The new cruise law also requires that rape victims on cruise ships be promptly given anti-retroviral medications in order to prevent the victims from developing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. 

Our firm is representing a woman who was recently raped on a Princess Cruises ship.  The ship doctor and the Princess Cruises fleet medical department refused to provide the victim with such medications.  The cruise line’s recklessness needlessly endangered the young woman’s health and life. Now, there will be culpability when cruise lines act irresponsibly following a cruise ship crime.   

The ICV issued a press release today:

Press Release of the International Cruise Victims     

international cruise victimsThe International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) applauds House passage today of critical language authored by Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui (D-CA) ensuring the safety of cruise ship passengers on the high seas. Matsui’s Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2009, included in H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2010, requires cruise lines to report all crimes aboard cruise ships to both the United States Coast Guard and the FBI. The first measure of its kind, this legislation represents a historic step toward securing the safety all passengers need and deserve.

“I recognize today as a milestone in our fight for justice,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “I originally became involved in this issue because of a young woman, Laurie Dishman, from my hometown of Sacramento. Laurie was sexually assaulted while on a cruise ship, and was left to fend for herself. international cruise victimMy legislation will not only help protect and empower future victims, but it contains important reforms that will help change the culture of the cruise industry and prevent future attacks from happening.”

ICV has been advocating for these measures to be adopted since 2006, participating in countless meetings with members of Congress, and three Congressional hearings. The hearings were held at the urging of Rep. Matsui, with the support of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced corresponding legislation in the U.S. Senate, which also held hearings, and the bill was passed unanimously out of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Now that the bill has passed the House, the bill will need to pass the full Senate before being sent to the President to be signed into law.

international cruise victimsAs this crucial legislation moves forward, it serves as a sign to many among the ICV’s community of followers that progress is being made toward ensuring the safety of Americans abroad. The measure approved today is a major victory in the fight for cruise passengers’ rights. ICV President Kendall Carver expressed his hopeful outlook as the legislation has been approved by committee in the Senate. “Adoption of this bill would be proof to the world that our small group of volunteers with limited funds has been able to make a difference in the safety of Americans. 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.”

“Congresswoman Matsui has taken the lead in the House on this issue, and her efforts have made the difference in moving this legislation forward,” Carver continued. “Her efforts are appreciated by myself and all other victims and their families that are members of International Cruise Victims Association. Without Ms. Matsui’s efforts in the House and Sen. Kerry’s efforts in the U.S. Senate this legislation would have not moved forward and we are forever indebted to both of them. I look forward to the upcoming Senate floor vote and the President’s signature as soon as humanly possible.”

Currently, cruise ships operating under foreign flags of convenience are not required under U.S. law to report crimes occurring outside of U.S. territorial waters. Legislation approved today will ensure that crimes committed while aboard cruise ships do not escape the jurisdiction of international cruise victimsAmerican law enforcement. Title IX requires cruise ships to comply with design and construction standards, such as specific rail heights, peep holes, warning devices and cabin security measures. The bill also requires that vessels are equipped with a video surveillance system to assist in documenting and prosecuting crimes, and it requires vessels to maintain a log book to record reports on specified complaints. Finally, once enacted, vessels will be required to contact the nearest FBI office as soon as possible to report incidents involving homicide, suspicious deaths, missing U.S. nationals, kidnapping, assault, and other serious occurrences.

The International Cruise Victims Association, Inc. (ICV) is a not for profit corporation formed by victims and families of victims of cruise crimes.


Photo Credits      International Cruise Victims ("ICV")

1. Honorable Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Laurie Dishman, Bill Dishman

2. ICV members Mark Brimble, Ken Carver, Son Michael Pham

3. ICV members in Washington DC

4. ICV members Ron and Sue DiPiero 

5. ICV members Lynnette Hudson, Ken Carver