WNEM reports that Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut joined the family of George Smith to plead for a federal law to protect cruise passengers.
Senator Blumenthal and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015. WNEM says that the new law will:
- Require vessels to integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers and detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.
- Improve medical standards aboard cruise ships.
- Require vessels to be staffed with an appropriate number of sea marshals, who have been certified by, and are operating under the jurisdiction of, the United States Coast Guard.
- Establish the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead federal agency for consumer protection for cruise ship passengers, similar to the role the Department has in aviation consumer protection.
- Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don’t have, before they book their tickets.
- Establish a consumer complaints toll-free hotline telephone number, give the DOT the authority to investigate complaints, and create an Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection, which would be charged with evaluating current consumer protections and generating recommendations for improvements.
- Require the reporting of crimes against minors to the list of currently reported crime statistics.
- Address crimes on cruise ships by strengthening video surveillance requirements in public areas, and setting requirements for the amount of time cruises lines must retain videos.
- Establish a victim advocate to be the primary point of contact in assisting victims, including helping the victim to understand their rights in international waters, get access to appropriate law enforcement and consulate services, and have access to necessary victim support services.