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An Overview of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

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In almost 30 years of handling Maritime cases, I have seen an increased number of reported rapes, sexual assaults, disappearance and other crimes aboard cruise ships which sail in and out of the United States. After several Congressional hearings, mainly prompted after the disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise, President Obama signed into law the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.

The legislature has taken a look at safety aboard cruise ships and passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in July of 2010, which addresses several security and safety issues aboard cruise ships. Although not a complete solution, it was a very positive step in the industry.

This Act provides important protections, and states, and in part: “to enhance the safety of cruise passengers, the owners of cruise vessels could upgrade, modernize and retrofit to safety and security infrastructure of such vessels in installing peep holes in passenger room doors, installing security video cameras in targeted areas, limiting access to passenger rooms to select staff during specific times and installing acoustic hailing and warning devices capable of communicating over distances.”

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act was a result of several years of attempts to see changes in the cruise ship industry, and was prompted in large part due to the wide spread public awareness of the disappearance of George Smith IV during his honeymoon cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship. Our firm represented the parents of George Smith IV for their claims against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Our Maritime Law Attorneys’ Involvement in Congressional Hearings

Brett Rivkind was an invited Maritime legal expert during Congressional hearings, being questioned about security measures and safety aboard passenger cruise ships. During the Congressional hearings, one aspect of concern that was addressed was the lack of mandatory reporting requirements in the cruise ship industry when a crime does occur onboard the ship. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 addresses this problem, and now requires cruise ship companies to maintain logs which records: (i) all complaints of crimes… (ii) all complaints of theft of property in excess of $1,000 and (iii) all complaints of other crimes.

Cruise ship owners also must make these log books available upon request of any agent of the FBI. The shipowners have to report to the FBI any incident involving a homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States National, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury or theft of monies or property in excess of $1,000.

In order to better educate the public, the cruise ship owners shall also “furnish a written report of the incident to an internet based portal maintained by” the U.S. Coast Guard and “each cruise taking or discharging passengers in the United States shall include a link on its internet website to the [USCG] website.”

Although following short of all that is required to address cruise ship safety, we applaud the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 as a positive movement towards increased safety legislation applicable to the cruise ship industry. The organization International Cruise Victims Association, with its President, Kendall Carver, should be applauded for their efforts in pursuing the passage of this safety legislation.

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