Nine years ago, I attended my first Congressional hearing regarding dangers to cruise passengers on the high seas. George Smith, of the Greenwich Connecticut area, had disappeared in the Aegean Sea during his honeymoon cruise.  I represented Mr. Smith’s widow. Senator Chris Shays (R-CT) convened a hearing to inquire into the disturbing circumstances surrounding Mr. Smith’s disappearance.

The hearing took place on December 13, 2005.  Right before the hearing began, a gentleman introduced himself and asked if I wanted to help him support legislation making cruising safer for the public?  His name was Kendall Carver.

Mr. Carver, a former president of an insurance company in New York, lost his daughter, Merrian Kendall Carver Senator RockefellerCarver, from a cruise ship. Merrian disappeared under suspicious circumstances during a cruise to Alaska aboard the Mercury cruise ship.

The cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. The cruise line either gave her personal items away or put them in storage.

When Mr. Carver asked for an explanation, Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away. The story went public. The Arizona Republic, in an excellent article written by journalist Robert Anglen entitled "Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise," revealed the hideous manner that this cruise line acted when people disappear at sea.  

Shortly after the December 2005 hearing, Mr. Carver joined with the family of George Smith to create the International Cruise Victims Organization (ICV).  The ICV now has hundreds of victims of cruise crimes and their families as members in over a dozen countries across the globe.

With Mr. Carver’s leadership as CEO (together with the work of the president, Jamie Barnett, and the board of directors) the ICV has been successful in convincing the House of Representatives and the Senate to convene a total of eight hearings into the issue of cruise ship dangers and the need for transparent crime reporting.   

The last hearing was in July of this year before Senator Jay Rockefeller.  Mr. Carver was there of course. My client Laurie Dishman (photo below), who was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, testified, in addition to others.  This was the eighth Congressional hearing I attended on the issue of cruise ship dangers. 

The cruise industry has spent millions of dollars and countless hours lobbying against the cruise crime bills. Several years ago, the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act was suppose to require the cruise lines to report all murders, rapes and other crimes to the U.S. public, but behind the scenes shenanigans by the cruise Industry and its trade organization, CLIA, so watered the cruise bill down that it became meaningless.

Senator Rockefeller introduced a bill at the last hearing designed to fix the shortcomings in the last bill. It will require greater transparency by the cruise lines in disclosing crime to the traveling public.  The bill will divest the Coast Guard (which has a cozy relationship with the cruise lines) of collecting the crime data and will transfer those responsibilities to the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

The best article on the development is written by Robert Anglen of the Arizona Republic. Mr. Anglen, you may recall, wrote the article in the same newspaper more than nine years ago about Mr. Carver’s experiences with Celebrity / Royal Caribbean when Mr. Carver’s daughter disappeared.  

It took nine years to pass a simple bill to require the cruise lines to tell the public the true crime statistics on the high seas. As you can read in Mr. Anglen’s article, the cruise lines have operated far too long in the murky waters of "voluntary disclosure" where they continue to hide the truth behind slick marketing slogans and a decade of lobbying to keep the crimes secret. 

 

Photo Credits:  Upper: Ken Carver / Senator Rockefeller – Ken Carver / Below: Laurie Dishman, far left; Ken Carver, next to upper right; Jim Walker, upper right – C-SPAN. 

Congressional Hearing - Senator Rockefeller Kendall Carver Jim Walker Laurie Dishman

  • Nick

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t 46 USC 3507(g)(3) place the crime data collection requirement on the FBI, which then provided that data to the Coast Guard for publication? Does this mean that the bill will remove the FBI from the process and place DOT in charge of collection, or will DOT take the place of the Coast Guard as publisher?

  • Capt. Ed Enos

    How tragic that it takes an act of congress to get cruiseline executives to “be honest” in dealing with the public…their very own customers…especially in matters of crime reporting. While it took nine years to finally make it work, the effort noted here in this article should be underscored. The USCG played a role in ‘assisting’ the dubious behavior of the cruise lines and their executive leadership, by allowing a watering down of the legal last effort. All done under the radar, behind closed doors. In addition, the cruise industry has gone kicking and screaming all the way, resisting the effort continuously for nine years. In the end, they have probably spent more money on lobbying efforts and attorneys than they would have if they simply reported a ‘missing persons case’ appropriately and dealt with authorities as required. I would bet anything, somebody ‘higher up’ at Carnival, RCI, and NCL probably figured this out not too long ago. CLIA and their money laundering efforts of cash from cruise line companies to the political lobbyists on K-Street was probably begining to add up to a sizable line item on some execs spreadsheet. In their ongoing efforts to lower operational costs, the outlay on fighting these issues was nearing its maximum sustainable yield.