Kerry Introduces Legislation to Protect Passengers on Cruise Ships
Senator John Kerry today introduced legislation that would improve cruise ship safety and accountability. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2008, S. 3204, would require crimes aboard cruise ships to be reported to the Coast Guard and FBI. Cruise ships, which operate under foreign flags of convenience, are not currently required under U.S. law to report crimes that occur outside of U.S. territorial waters.
In addition, the legislation would require cruise ships to maintain medications used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases after assault, as well as equipment and materials for performing a medical examination to determine if a victim has been raped. A United States licensed medical practitioner would be on every ship to perform the necessary examinations and to administer treatment.
The legislation follows last week's hearings on cruise ship safety, chaired by Sen. Kerry. Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) held similar hearings last year in the House. Kerry was compelled to hold hearings in the Senate after meeting Ken Carver, whose daughter Merrian disappeared on a cruise in 2004. Merrian was a resident of Cambridge, MA.
"Millions of Americans will board cruise ships this year and they should know that they are safe," said Sen. Kerry. "The tragic loss of Ken Carver's daughter Merrian should serve as a reminder that security and crime reporting regulations need to be tightened. Murky legal jurisdictions in international waters are no longer an excuse for failing to report serious crimes so that they may be effectively prosecuted. If U.S. passengers are at risk, then U.S. law should hold the industry accountable for their safety."
"Over the past year our organization and other victims of cruise crimes have met numerous times with cruise lines executives in an effort to have them voluntarily take the necessary steps as outlined in our proposals," said Carver, President of International Cruise Victims. "The cruise line industry has failed to step up to the challenge and make any significant changes to improve safety. That resistance to change is a clear signal to us that the only alternative left is for the United States Congress to move forward with legislation. I'm grateful to Senator Kerry and Rep. Matsui for their support in this endeavor."
"It is absolutely appalling that the cruise industry does not have basic reporting and prevention mechanisms in place to keep their patrons safe," said Rep. Matsui. "When a goliath like the cruise industry will not act in the best interest of the customers who are entrusting it with their personal well-being, then Congress has a responsibility to step in and shed some sunlight on the problem."
"It's important we continue the efforts to improve cruise ship safety which began in the last Congress, when I chaired the National Security Subcommittee," said Rep. Shays. "The bottom line is, the crime statistics provided by the cruise industry are inaccurate and inadequate. This must change."
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