President Signs Kerry Cruise Ship Safety Bill Into Law

On July 27 President Obama signed Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.)’s Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which will increase security, law enforcement, and accountability on cruise ships in international waters. The Senate unanimously passed this legislation earlier this month. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) sponsored the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the millions of Americans who will board cruise ships this year,” said Sen. Kerry. “This law will finally do away with the murky lines of jurisdiction that have put American cruise ship passengers at risk in the past. I applaud President Obama, Rep. Matsui and 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.”

“Today marks the beginning of a new accountability for any crimes that are committed against passengers on cruise ships,” said Kendall Carver, Chairman of International Cruise Victims (ICV), whose daughter Merrian Carver, a constituent of Senator Kerry’s, disappeared on a cruise ship. “This came about because a small group of victims joined together four and one-half years ago to form ICV. From just a few families, ICV now has membership in over 20 countries. The lesson learned from this is that no one should ever underestimate the power of organized victims, who all are volunteers, to make changes. The passage of this legislation would not have happened without the dedicated support of Sen. Kerry and Rep Matsui, who joined our efforts to pass this historic legislation. This legislation will protect millions of passengers in the coming years and we are deeply indebted to all of those who helped make this happen.”

“The Cruise Lines International Association is pleased that the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act is now law,” said Cruise Lines International Association President and CEO Terry Dale. “We appreciated the opportunity to work with Senator Kerry and Congress to ensure that the new law would bring greater consistency and clarity of security laws and regulations for our industry.”

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.

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