President Obama signed into law the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 on July 28, 2010. This bill originated after the 2005 disappearance of George Smith, a passenger on his honeymoon cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif) sponsored the law and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) sponsored similar language in the Senate version of the law. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) supports the new law, which goes into effect in 18 months.
What are the implications for you, as a cruise passenger? The new law provides for stricter reporting of crimes at sea, additional design safety standards, and specific regulations pertaining to treating victims of sexual assault.
*Reporting of crimes on cruise ships
The FBI must be contacted immediately after “all complaints of theft of property valued in excess of $1000, and homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury.” In addition, a written report must be made to the US Coast Guard.
Ships are responsible to keep accurate logs of complaints of crimes, and allow these logs to be fully available to the FBI, Coast Guard, and other law enforcement personnel as necessary. The information must also be published on the US Coast Guard web site. All video surveillance must be readily available to law enforcement during an investigation.
*Cruise ship design and retrofitting safety requirements
Cruise ships must install railings that are at least 42 inches above the deck, and all passenger staterooms and crew cabins must have entry doors with peepholes or other visual identification technology. All new ships still under construction must have security latches and time-sensitive key technology.
*Treating victims of sexual assault
All cruise ships are required by this law to install on deck surveillance cameras, to deter attacks on passengers. In addition, ships must carry sexual assault evidence kits, and stock medications to prevent sexually transmitted disease for victims of sexual assault.
Any cruise line failing to comply with the new law can face civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation, criminal penalties up to $250,000, and up to one year in prison for any persons responsible. The ship can also be denied entry to US ports.
Prior to this law, there were no Federal regulations to mandate reporting of crimes on most cruise ships. Unless the ships were registered in the US, or operating in an area under the “direct jurisdiction” of the US, crimes went unreported. Often it was extremely difficult to investigate crimes, as the ships were flagged outside of US jurisdiction. This law will improve the efficiency of US law enforcement officials to investigate shipboard crimes, and make cruise ship safety a high priority for the cruise lines.