Senator Richard Blumenthal recently proposed legislation to strengthen cruise ship safety.

According to a press release from the senator’s office, the bill includes proposals designed to expand health and safety on cruise ships: “The bill includes language from Blumenthal’s Cruise Passenger Protection Act to strengthen a number of critical medical standards aboard cruise ships, including ensuring the presence of a physician to treat any passenger in the event of an emergency, the appropriate number of qualified medical staff to treat the number of passengers on board, and that the passengers are aware of the location of the vessel’s medical facilities and the appropriate steps they should follow during a medical emergency.”

The bill also includes Blumenthal’s language to clarify that vessels must have video surveillance equipment in all passenger common areas, and other areas, where there is no expectation of privacy to deter, prevent, and record criminal behavior aboard ships. The bill allows individuals to access to video surveillance records for civil action purposes, mandates that all video records are kept for at least 20 days after video footage is obtained, and directs the Coast Guard to promulgate final standards within one year detailing requirements for the retention of video surveillance records.

When I first posted a Miami Herald article about this news on our Facebook page, a number of readers scoffed at the bill and mistakenly believed that there was nothing new in the language. But there are two reasons this new language in important:

(1) There is now a clear statutory duty to have a qualified doctor on board and a penalty if there is not. The prior legislation required only a nurse to be aboard the ship. Believe it or not, there are cases where it was discovered that the person treating crew members and guests did not have a medical license (or education, training and experience as a doctor) and still worked on a cruise ship as a ship doctor. This was the situation on the Carnival Corporation-owned Aidavita where a fake doctor was arrested after working for five years on cruise ships. German authorities charged the bogus doctor with 81 charges of inflicting bodily injury, as well as fraud, forgery of university diplomas and unauthorized use of an academic degree.

Exposed: Fake Doctor Working Aboard Cruise Ships

There is now a fine if there is in fact no qualified doctor on board and arguably a statutory basis for a civil action against the cruise line if there is not.

(2) The new language also requires cruise lines to turn CCTV video images over to guests upon their request. In the past, after a guest or crew member was a victim of a shipboard crime (usually a sexual assault) the cruise lines would never voluntarily turn over the images to the victim. Later, they would claim that they didn’t know they should have preserved the film, and the valuable evidence would inevitably be “lost.” This language imposes a statutory obligation for cruise lines to preserve relevant CCTV images as evidence.

The language is contained in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act and is set to be enacted into law, although President Trump has threatened to veto the defense act.

Many thanks to the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization and its president, Jamie Barnet, for advocating for crime victims on cruise ships.

If you have a comment or question, please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Kefalonitis94 – CC BY-SA 4.0, wikipedia/commons.