The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the Cruise Crime Bill of 2009 making passage in the Senate the next step.
The House just passed the "Cruise Crime Act of 2009" and the full text of the bill is below. This bill has been in the making since the first so-called cruise crime Congressional hearings in 2006.
The amount of crime on cruise ships has been hotly debated. I personally believe the relative amount of true crime on all cruise ships known to United States cruisers, compared to any other population of 10,000,000 people (the number of Americans who take a cruise each year) is magnitudes smaller than many alarmists would have you believe. Statistically speaking, a cruise vacation is still one of the safest vacations any person could possibly take.
Let's take a look at what is in H.R. 3619 - Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (Reported in the House). This bill is actually targeted at the Coast Guard and only a small portion of it mandates changes in cruise ship design and procedure. The cruise-ship related portion of the bill is below, but we will first summarize the points that have been most hotly debated.
To understand the derivation of the debate you need to know that much of this bill is based upon the 10-point plan put forth by the ICV, or International Cruise Victims. Their ideas included 24-hours tracking of all passengers by microchip bracelets, and the establishment of a new international police force for law enforcement on cruise ships. Needless to say, most of their ideas were not included in this bill, though some came closer than others. By the same token, it is safe to say that most of the ideas that are included in this bill were suggested by that 10-point plan although the final implementation may be somewhat different.
In the long run, I believe this is a good bill which will clarify that "cruise crime" is much less of a problem than many advocates have led the public to believe, The House came up with a fair bill that addresses the true problems without placing unreasonable burdens on the cruise industry or the cruising public.
Railing heights - many of us regular cruises were afraid the proposal for a new railing minimum requirement of 54 inches would go through. It did not - the suggested minimum height is 42 inches.
Every ship will be required to install peepholes and safety latches on all cabin doors. We think this is a good idea and most newer ships already have these. Ships will be required to install time-sensitive key systems, which means they will be able to tell who accesses a room and at what time. This will go a long way in crime investigation although it has been surprisingly not helpful in cases where such evidence would seem to be crucial.
Ships must have surveillance systems, both to monitor the perimeter of ships to capture images of any person going overboard, and also to monitor public places to watch for suspicious activity. These cameras will record their images and those images will be maintained and made available to law enforcement personnel upon request.
Every vessel will have certified medical personnel with special training in examination for sexual assault and the ability to provide the proper medical care in the case of a rape. This includes administration of anti-retroviral medications and other medications that may prevent the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Ships shall create and maintain detailed records of all reported crimes and make these records available to the Coast Guard on a quarterly basis. The Secretary of Transportation shall maintain a statistical compilation of these records on an Internet site that provides a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes recorded in each report.
Significantly, this portion only applies to crimes that are no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that is exactly as it should be in my opinion. I had concerns that this mandated public reporting would include records of accusations made public even if they had not been investigated, let alone adjudicated. I like the fact that it mandates reporting a compilation of these reports rather than the personal details due to privacy and presumption of innocence concerns - however I hope that doesn't lead to overly-vague statistics that paint the worst picture where it isn't deserved.
It is precisely the vagueness of details that enables cruise industry bashers to perpetuate the worst myths about crime on ships in my experience, as I have personally seen lists of "reported sexual assaults" on cruise ships where the details amounted to "an uninvited kiss" or "the waiter touched me improperly when placing my napkin on my lap." When you hear about the number of sexual assault incidents on cruise ships coming from anti-industry advocates you don't hear what percentage are of that nature. I just hope "compiled statistics" don't amount to that kind of reporting, which is why I applaud the "no longer being investigated by the FBI" requirement. Those kinds of cases are not investigated by the FBI - and they shouldn't be.
I would prefer that they limit the reporting of cases to those that have been tried in court with a final determination, but I understand the intent of this section is to attempt to give the public a better picture of "crimes on cruise ships." In the long run, even with full disclosure by the cruise lines (under penalty of law) I think the public is going to pleasantly surprised about the statistical amount and nature of "crime" on cruise ships.
The crimes to be reported include "homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, any offense to which section 2241, 2242, 2243, or 2244 (a) or (c) of title 18 applies, firing or tampering with the vessel, or theft of money or property in excess of $10,000".
Sections 2241 - 2244 address sexual assaults in its many forms including kidnapping, inducing drugs, rendering unconscious, threats of bodily harm, crimes against minors and related incidents.
The bill also mandates having personnel onboard trained in investigating and preserving crime scenes in the case of any of the above.
All in all, many of these procedures were already in place on cruise ships anyway on a voluntary basis; especially video surveillance, crime reporting to the FBI, railings, "rape kits" and trained personnel to administer them. But this law mandates and standardizes the use of all these things and that is a good thing for the passengers and the industry.
The Cruise Crime Bill of 2009 as passed by the House is below:
SEC. 903. CRUISE VESSEL SECURITY AND SAFETY REQUIREMENTS.
- (a) In General- Chapter 35 of title 46, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
Sec. 3507. Passenger vessel security and safety requirements
- (a) Vessel Design, Equipment, Construction, and Retrofitting Requirements-
- (1) IN GENERAL- Each vessel to which this subsection applies shall comply with the following design and construction standards:
- (A) The vessel shall be equipped with ship rails that are located not less than 42 inches above the cabin deck.
- (B) Each passenger stateroom and crew cabin shall be equipped with entry doors that include peep holes or other means of visual identification.
- (C) For any vessel the keel of which is laid after the date of enactment of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009, each passenger stateroom and crew cabin shall be equipped with--
- (i) security latches; and
- (ii) time-sensitive key technology.
- (D) The vessel shall integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.
- (E) The vessel shall be equipped with a sufficient number of operable acoustic hailing or other such warning devices to provide communication capability around the entire vessel when operating in high risk areas (as defined by the United States Coast Guard).
- (2) FIRE SAFETY CODES- In administering the requirements of paragraph (1)(C), the Secretary shall take into consideration fire safety and other applicable emergency requirements established by the U.S. Coast Guard and under international law, as appropriate.
- (3) EFFECTIVE DATE-
- (A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the requirements of paragraph (1) shall take effect 18 months after the date of enactment of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009.
- (B) LATCH AND KEY REQUIREMENTS- The requirements of paragraph (1)(C) take effect on the date of enactment of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009.
- (b) Video Recording-
- (1) REQUIREMENT TO MAINTAIN SURVEILLANCE- The owner of a vessel to which this section applies shall maintain a video surveillance system to assist in documenting crimes on the vessel and in providing evidence for the prosecution of such crimes, as determined by the Secretary.
- (2) ACCESS TO VIDEO RECORDS- The owner of a vessel to which this section applies shall provide to any law enforcement official performing official duties in the course and scope of an investigation, upon request, a copy of all records of video surveillance that the official believes may provide evidence of a crime reported to law enforcement officials.
- (c) Safety Information- The owner of a vessel to which this section applies shall provide in each passenger stateroom, and post in a location readily accessible to all crew and in other places specified by the Secretary, information regarding the locations of the United States embassy and each consulate of the United States for each country the vessel will visit during the course of the voyage.
- (d) Sexual Assault- The owner of a vessel to which this section applies shall--
- (1) maintain on the vessel adequate, in-date supplies of anti-retroviral medications and other medications designed to prevent sexually transmitted diseases after a sexual assault;
- (2) maintain on the vessel equipment and materials for performing a medical examination in sexual assault cases to evaluate the patient for trauma, provide medical care, and preserve relevant medical evidence;
- (3) make available on the vessel at all times medical staff who have undergone a credentialing process to verify that he or she--
- (A) possesses a current physician's or registered nurse's license and--
- (i) has at least 3 years of post-graduate or post-registration clinical practice in general and emergency medicine; or
- (ii) holds board certification in emergency medicine, family practice medicine, or internal medicine;
- (B) is able to provide assistance in the event of an alleged sexual assault, has received training in conducting forensic sexual assault examination, and is able to promptly perform such an examination upon request and provide proper medical treatment of a victim, including administration of anti-retroviral medications and other medications that may prevent the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus and other sexually transmitted diseases; and
- (C) meets guidelines established by the American College of Emergency Physicians relating to the treatment and care of victims of sexual assault;
- (4) prepare, provide to the patient, and maintain written documentation of the findings of such examination that is signed by the patient; and
- (5) provide the patient free and immediate access to--
- (A) contact information for local law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Coast Guard, the nearest United States consulate or embassy, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline program or other third party victim advocacy hotline service; and
- (B) a private telephone line and Internet-accessible computer terminal by which the individual may confidentially access law enforcement officials, an attorney, and the information and support services available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline program or other third party victim advocacy hotline service.
- (e) Confidentiality of Sexual Assault Examination and Support Information- The master or other individual in charge of a vessel to which this section applies shall--
- (1) treat all information concerning an examination under subsection (d) confidential, so that no medical information may be released to the cruise line or other owner of the vessel or any legal representative thereof without the prior knowledge and approval in writing of the patient, or, if the patient is unable to provide written authorization, the patient's next-of-kin, except that nothing in this paragraph prohibits the release of--
- (A) information, other than medical findings, necessary for the owner or master of the vessel to comply with the provisions of subsection (g) or other applicable incident reporting laws;
- (B) information to secure the safety of passengers or crew on board the vessel; or
- (C) any information to law enforcement officials performing official duties in the course and scope of an investigation; and
- (2) treat any information derived from, or obtained in connection with, post-assault counseling or other supportive services confidential, so no such information may be released to the cruise line or any legal representative thereof without the prior knowledge and approval in writing of the patient, or, if the patient is unable to provide written authorization, the patient's next-of-kin.
- (f) Crew Access to Passenger Staterooms- The owner of a vessel to which this section applies shall--
- (1) establish and implement procedures and restrictions concerning--
- (A) which crew members have access to passenger staterooms; and
- (B) the periods during which they have that access; and
- (2) ensure that the procedures and restrictions are fully and properly implemented and periodically reviewed.
- (g) Log Book and Reporting Requirements-
- (1) IN GENERAL- The owner of a vessel to which this section applies shall--
- (A) record in a log book, either electronically or otherwise, in a centralized location readily accessible to law enforcement personnel, a report on--
- (i) all complaints of crimes described in paragraph (3)(A)(i),
- (ii) all complaints of theft of property valued in excess of $1,000, and
- (iii) all complaints of other crimes,
- committed on any voyage that embarks or disembarks passengers in the United States; and
- (B) make such log book available upon request to any agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, any member of the United States Coast Guard, and any law enforcement officer performing official duties in the course and scope of an investigation.
- (2) DETAILS REQUIRED- The information recorded under paragraph (1) shall include, at a minimum--
- (A) the vessel operator;
- (B) the name of the cruise line;
- (C) the flag under which the vessel was operating at the time the reported incident occurred;
- (D) the age and gender of the victim and the accused assailant;
- (E) the nature of the alleged crime or complaint, as applicable, including whether the alleged perpetrator was a passenger or a crew member;
- (F) the vessel's position at the time of the incident, if known, or the position of the vessel at the time of the initial report;
- (G) the time, date, and method of the initial report and the law enforcement authority to which the initial report was made;
- (H) the time and date the incident occurred, if known;
- (I) the total number of passengers and the total number of crew members on the voyage; and
- (J) the case number or other identifier provided by the law enforcement authority to which the initial report was made.
- (3) REQUIREMENT TO REPORT CRIMES AND OTHER INFORMATION-
- (A) IN GENERAL- The owner of a vessel to which this section applies (or the owner's designee)--
- (i) shall contact the nearest Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Office or Legal Attache by telephone as soon as possible after the occurrence on board the vessel of an incident involving homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, any offense to which section 2241, 2242, 2243, or 2244 (a) or (c) of title 18 applies, firing or tampering with the vessel, or theft of money or property in excess of $10,000 to report the incident;
- (ii) shall furnish a written report of the incident to the Secretary via an Internet based portal;
- (iii) may report any serious incident that does not meet the reporting requirements of clause (i) and that does not require immediate attention by the Federal Bureau of Investigation via the Internet based portal maintained by the Secretary of Transportation; and
- (iv) may report any other criminal incident involving passengers or crew members, or both, to the proper State or local government law enforcement authority.
- (B) INCIDENTS TO WHICH SUBPARAGRAPH (A) APPLIES- Subparagraph (A) applies to an incident involving criminal activity if--
- (i) the vessel, regardless of registry, is owned, in whole or in part, by a United States person, regardless of the nationality of the victim or perpetrator, and the incident occurs when the vessel is within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and outside the jurisdiction of any State;
- (ii) the incident concerns an offense by or against a United States national committed outside the jurisdiction of any nation;
- (iii) the incident occurs in the Territorial Sea of the United States, regardless of the nationality of the vessel, the victim, or the perpetrator; or
- (iv) the incident concerns a victim or perpetrator who is a United States national on a vessel during a voyage that departed from or will arrive at a United States port.
- (4) AVAILABILITY OF INCIDENT DATA VIA INTERNET-
- (A) WEBSITE- The Secretary of Transportation shall maintain a statistical compilation of all incidents described in paragraph (3)(A)(i) on an Internet site that provides a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes recorded in each report filed under paragraph (3)(A)(i) that are no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The data shall be updated no less frequently than quarterly, aggregated by--
- (i) cruise line, with each cruise line identified by name; and
- (ii) whether each crime was committed by a passenger or a crew member.
- (B) ACCESS TO WEBSITE- Each cruise line taking on or discharging passengers in the United States shall include a link on its Internet website to the website maintained by the Secretary under subparagraph (A).
- (h) Enforcement-
- (1) PENALTIES-
- (A) CIVIL PENALTY- Any person that violates this section or a regulation under this section shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than $25,000 for each day during which the violation continues, except that the maximum penalty for a continuing violation is $50,000.
- (B) CRIMINAL PENALTY- Any person that willfully violates this section or a regulation under this section shall be fined not more than $250,000 or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.
- (2) DENIAL OF ENTRY- The Secretary may deny entry into the United States to a vessel to which this section applies if the owner of the vessel--
- (A) commits an act or omission for which a penalty may be imposed under this subsection; or
- (B) fails to pay a penalty imposed on the owner under this subsection.
- (i) Procedures- Within 6 months after the date of enactment of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009, the Secretary shall issue guidelines, training curricula, and inspection and certification procedures necessary to carry out the requirements of this section.
- (j) Regulations- The Secretary of Transportation and the Commandant shall each issue such regulations as are necessary to implement this section.
- (k) Application-
- (1) IN GENERAL- This section and section 3508 apply to a passenger vessel (as defined in section 2101(22)) that--
- (A) is authorized to carry at least 250 passengers;
- (B) has onboard sleeping facilities for each passenger;
- (C) is on a voyage that embarks or disembarks passengers in the United States; and
- (D) is not engaged on a coastwise voyage.
- (2) FEDERAL AND STATE VESSELS- This section and section 3508 do not apply to a vessel that is owned and operated by the United States Government or a vessel that is owned and operated by a State.
- (l) Owner Defined- In this section and section 3508, the term owner' means the owner, charterer, managing operator, master, or other individual in charge of a vessel.
Sec. 3508. Crime scene preservation training for passenger vessel crew members
- (a) In General- Within 1 year after the date of enactment of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009, the Secretary, in consultation with the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Maritime Administrator, shall develop training standards and curricula to allow for the certification of passenger vessel security personnel, crew members, and law enforcement officials on the appropriate methods for prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment. The Administrator of the Maritime Administration may certify organizations in the United States and abroad that offer the curriculum for training and certification under subsection (c).
- (b) Minimum Standards- The standards established by the Secretary under subsection (a) shall include--
- (1) the training and certification of vessel security personnel, crew members, and law enforcement officials in accordance with accepted law enforcement and security guidelines, policies, and procedures, including recommendations for incorporating a background check process for personnel trained and certified in foreign countries;
- (2) the training of students and instructors in all aspects of prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment; and
- (3) the provision or recognition of off-site training and certification courses in the United States and foreign countries to develop and provide the required training and certification described in subsection (a) and to enhance security awareness and security practices related to the preservation of evidence in response to crimes on board passenger vessels.
- (c) Certification Requirement- Beginning 2 years after the standards are established under subsection (b), no vessel to which this section applies may enter a United States port on a voyage (or voyage segment) on which a United States citizen is a passenger unless there is at least 1 crew member onboard who is certified as having successfully completed training in the prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment on passenger vessels under subsection (a).
- (d) Interim Training Requirement- No vessel to which this section applies may enter a United States port on a voyage (or voyage segment) on which a United States citizen is a passenger unless there is at least 1 crew member onboard who has been properly trained in the prevention, detection, evidence preservation and the reporting requirements of criminal activities in the international maritime environment.
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