In the past several year cruises have become a popular, affordable and a fun way to travel. It seems that you cannot watch television for a half hour without seeing at least one commercial for a cruise line. In fact there are approximately two hundred (200) over night, ocean going cruise vessels world- wide averaging two-thousand (2,000) passengers and a crew of almost a thousand (1,000) crew members. In 2007 alone approximately twelve-million (12,000,000) passengers took cruises. Even with these numbers, vacationers fail to fully appreciate their potential vulnerability to crime even on the ship itself. Additionally, many passengers are victims of crime on foreign soil. The victims often do not know their legal rights or whom to contact for help in the immediate aftermath of a crime either at sea or on foreign soil.
Recently passed, and waiting for the President’s signature, is H.R.1485.IH which is commonly referred to as the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009. This law is designed to fully inform all of the passengers of their rights if they become victims of crime while on a cruise. Additionally, it requires the vessel to have certain equipment and modifications which further ensure the safety of its passengers. The equipment and modifications include railings that are located on each deck that are not less than four and a half feet (4 ½) above the deck, the staterooms shall be equipped with entry doors that include peep holes, security latches and time sensitive key technology. Also, the cruise shall have restrictive access to passenger state rooms. Fire codes shall be implemented. The vessel shall integrate technology that can be used for detecting passengers who have fallen over board. Also, the ship is to keep a log of all reported deaths, missing individuals and significant crimes alleged to be committed on the vessel including, but not limited to, complaints of theft, sexual harassment and assault. These log books will be made available upon request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Coast Guard and any law enforcement officer in any jurisdiction.
The ships shall also be equipped with rape kits and crime investigation tools. The cruise shall undergo crime investigation training and at least one (1) crew member aboard the vessel shall be certified as successfully completing a crime scene evidence and investigation course subscribed to by the F.B.I. They shall also be required to carry surveillance and keep all the recordings. These policies and procedures are subject to periodic review.
Until now all of the aforementioned requirements were strictly voluntary and implemented by the cruise line at their own election. This made it very difficult for passengers to report crimes and obtain appropriate follow up by law enforcement. This legislation makes it mandatory for the ships to carry certain safety equipment, employ personnel educated in crime scene investigation and over all improve the safety of the ship. Each passenger will be informed of their rights. It is the desired goal of this legislation to ensure the enhanced safety of the passengers and the ships. These changes will obviously instill a certain a certain peace of mind in each and every passenger. As cruising grows, so do the modifications and improvements to safety and the overall comfort and pleasure of each and every passenger.