Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Passengers on cruise ships headed from or toward American ports will gain increased security, services and rights when the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is  implemented thanks to the leadership of a California Congresswoman, vocal survivors and the President of the United States.
On Tues. July 31, the President signed H.R. 3360, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento). In a press release, the Congresswoman credits “Laurie Dishman, a Sacramento, CA resident and a constituent of Rep. Matsui’s, who wrote to her Representative after being sexually assaulted on a cruise ship – and asked for help. After several Congressional hearings which brought to light the gross inadequacies of current safety requirements on cruise ships, Rep. Matsui introduced H.R. 3360 in the House of Representatives.”
Congresswoman Matsui states that “H.R. 3360 will improve the safety and security of all cruise ship passengers traveling in and out of U.S. waters, and provide common-sense security measures to prevent crimes from occurring – and protections and support for victims and their families if and when they do.”
Also applauding the enactment was Ken Carver, President of International Cruise Victims Association (ICV): “Today marks the beginning of a new accountability for any crimes that are committed against passengers on cruise ships…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 that help make this happen.”
A brief description of the policies signed into law are as followed:

  • Prevention
    • Mandate all passenger and crew cabin doors be equipped with peep holes or other mean of visual identification
    • Mandate all passenger and crew cabin doors be equipped with security latches and time-sensitive key technology
    • Require cruise ships to maintain electronic video surveillance to assist in documenting crimes and provided as evidence for prosecution
      • Video records shall be made available to law enforcement, upon request, during an investigation
    • Cruise operators are mandated to provide a “security guide” to each passenger that describes medical and security personnel designated to prevent and respond to criminal and medical situations within 24-hour contact instructions
      • Security guide will also provide information to passengers on how to report crimes to appropriate US law enforcement REGARDLESS of where the crime is committed (US waters, high seas, in any country visit on the voyage)
      • Security guide must be published on the website of cruise ship owners/operators
    • Limits on Crew Access
      • Vessel owners/operators must implement procedures and restrictions concerning which crewmembers have access to passenger cabins
      • And limit the periods of time crew will have access to passenger cabins
  • Intervention
    • Mandate operators/owners to maintain on the vessel adequate, in-date supplies of anti-retroviral medication and other medications designed at preventing STDs
      • required to maintain adequate equipment and materials for performing a rape exam/rape kits to evaluate the patient for trauma, provide medical care, and relevant medical services
    • Vessels are required to make available at all times medical staff (licensed physician or RN) who have undergone a credentialing process
      • Medical staff must have at least 3 years post-graduate/registration clinical practice and emergency medicine
      • Is able to provide assistance in the event of a sexual assault and to conduct rape kit exam
      • Meet guidelines established by the American College of Emergency Physicians related to the treatment and care of SA victims
      • Prepare and provide SA victims with medical documentation of the findings of the exam
      • Required to provide patient with free and immediate access to contact local law enforcement, FBI, Coast Guard, or Embassy or Consulate, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline program or other third party victim advocacy hotline service
      • Required to provide telephone line and internet-accessible computer terminal by which the SA victim may confidentially access law enforcement, attorney and information and support services available through National Sexual Assault Hotline Program or other third party advocacy service
  • Victim Privacy
    • Masters of the vessel are required to treat all information, especially medical information, confidential and shall not be released to cruise line or owner of vessel or any legal representative thereof without the prior knowledge and written approval of patient, or patient next-of-kin
    • Exceptions include:
      • information, other than medical findings, shall be included in centralized crime log
      • information to secure the safety of passengers or crew on board the vessel
      • any information to law enforcement official performing official duties in the course of investigation
  • Record Keeping
    • All vessels are required to keep a centralized log book of all complaints of crimes and make log book available upon the request to any agent of the FBI, Coast Guard, and law enforcement official performing official duties int he course of investigation
  • Reporting
    • Owner/operator of vessel must contact nearest FBI field office or legal attache as soon as possible after the occurrence of specified crime commitment
    • Shall file a report of the incident on an Internet based portal maintained by the Secretary
    • Borderless Reporting
      • Reporting crimes within this measure are applicable regardless of vessel registry and if the vessel is owned in whole or in part, by a US person/corporation, regardless of the nationality of the victim if committed within the maritime jurisdiction of the US
      • if the offense of concern is committed by or against a US national outside of the jurisdiction of any nation
      • if the offense of concern occurs in the Territorial Sea of the US
      • if the offense of concern is committed by or against a US national on a vessel during a voyage that departed from or will arrive at a US port
  • Information
    • Secretary shall maintain a statistical compilation of all incidents on an Internet site that provides numerical accounting of missing persons or alleged crimes.
    • Data shall be updated quarterly and each cruise line shall be identified by name, and each crime shall be identified as to whether the crime was committed by a passenger or crew member
    • Cruise lines taking in or discharging passengers in the US shall provide a Internet website link to Federal database on their website
  • Staff training/certification
    • The Secretary shall issue guidelines, training curricula, and inspection and certification procedures within 6 months of enactment of Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010
    • Within 1 year of enactment the Secretary and director of FBI shall develop training standards and curricula for security personnel, crewmembers, and law enforcement officials on the appropriate methods of prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in international waters.
      • This act also establishes minimum standards in which this training must adhere on page 8 Section 3508(b).
    • Beginning 2 years after these standards are established, no ship may enter US port or carry a US citizen as a passenger unless there is at least 1 crewmember onboard who is certified as having successfully completed training in prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities
  • The Act also lists a litany of penalties if any of these sections are violated by ship operators/owners.

Let us know what your thoughts are concerning the signing of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.