The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed legislation by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) to increase security, law enforcement, and accountability on cruise ships in international waters.
Sen. Kerry is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which unanimously approved the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in July 2009. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) is the sponsor of companion legislation, H.R. 3360, which has already been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"The term "duty free' does not apply to the safety of passengers," said Sen. Kerry. "Murky lines of jurisdiction are no longer an excuse for risking the safety of millions of Americans who will board cruise ships this year. I applaud my colleagues for helping to ensure that security, safety, and accountability be strengthened to hold criminals accountable and end the cycle of serious crimes on these vessels."
"As each day passes without these safeguards in place, American families are unnecessarily and unknowingly at risk," said Rep. Matsui. "Following this historic action by the Senate, I will work with my colleagues to ensure final passage of this critical safety bill and send it to the President for his signature."
"I am thrilled that the Senate has passed this legislation that will serve to protect Americans around the world during what ought to be relaxing vacations," said Ken Carver, the President of International Cruise Victims whose daughter Merrian Carver, a constituent of Senator Kerry's, disappeared on a cruise ship. "Thanks to Senator Kerry's efforts in the Senate, these common-sense and necessary reforms are one significant step closer to becoming law."
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act will:
* improve ship safety by requiring forty-two inch guard rails, peep holes in every passenger and crew member's door, on-deck video surveillance, and an emergency sound system;
* provide transparency in reporting by establishing a structure between the cruise industry, the FBI, and the Coast Guard, including requirements that each ship maintain a log book, which would record all deaths, missing individuals, alleged crimes, and passenger/crewmember complaints regarding theft, sexual harassment, and assault;
* improve crime scene response by requiring rape kits, anti-retroviral medications, and a trained forensic sexual assault specialist be aboard each ship; and
* establish a program designed by the Secretary of Transportation in consultation with the FBI to train appropriate crew members in crime prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment.