Cruises are often associated with endless buffets and a party-like atmosphere, but recent events have cast a somber shadow over these fun-filled voyages. In the past five years, the FBI has opened 184 criminal cases aboard cruise ships, mainly involving physical and sexual assault. This has led to the introduction of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009. The bill, which was introduced earlier this year is being spearheaded by Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Ca.), and aims to increase accountability of cruise lines in reporting these crimes and to boost overall safety onboard.If the bill is passed, cruise ships will be required to install peep holes on cabin doors, security latches, and time sensitive key technology in passenger staterooms and crew cabins. Also, companies will be required to install a technology that alerts the crew if someone has fallen overboard.
To increase accountability, the cruise lines would be required to keep a log which would detail all deaths, missing individuals, and crime onboard along with all complaints by passengers and crew involving theft, sexual harassment, and assault that will be available to the FBI and Coast Guard upon request. The bill would also require cruise lines to train the appropriate crew members in crime scene investigation, and to maintain rape kits on all ships. These requirements stem from allegations of ship employees mishandling evidence, and other claims of withholding information from authorities. The bill is currently being reviewed and revised by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and House Transportation and Infrastructure committees.
Ken Carver, President of International Cruise Victims recently stated that the bill is moving forward, and that they are hopeful it will be marked up in the Senate within the first couple of weeks of July.