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CARBON TAX ON BUNKER FUEL
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Marine Log

June 29, 2008

Kerry bill targets cruise ship crime

Cruise lines serving the U.S. market could face some significant extra costs under legislation introduced by Senator John Kerry.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2008 would require cruise ships to maintain medications used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases after assault, as well as equipment and materials for performing a medical examination to determine if a victim has been raped.

A United States licensed medical practitioner would be on every ship to perform the necessary examinations and to administer treatment.

The bill would also require crimes aboard cruise ships to be reported to the Coast Guard and FBI. Cruise ships that operate under foreign flags are not currently required under U.S. law to report crimes that occur outside of U.S. territorial waters.

The legislation would require cruise ships to maintain medications used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases after assault, as well as equipment and materials for performing a medical examination to determine if a victim has been raped.

A United States licensed medical practitioner would be on every ship to perform the necessary examinations and to administer treatment.

The legislation follows recent hearings on cruise ship safety chaired by Senator Kerry. Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) held similar hearings last year in the House.

Kerry says he was compelled to hold hearings in the Senate after meeting Ken Carver, whose daughter Merrian disappeared on a cruise in 2004. Merrian was a resident of Cambridge, MA.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2008 will, says Kerry:

Improve Ship Safety. The legislation would mandate that: guard rails reach 54 inches in height; entry doors of each passenger stateroom and crew cabin have peep holes, security latches, and time sensitive key technology. Ship owners would be required to implement fire safety codes as well as technology to detect when a passenger falls overboard. Procedures would be established to determine which crew members have access to staterooms and when.

Provide Transparency in Reporting. The legislation would establish a reporting structure based on the current voluntary agreement in place between the cruise industry, the FBI, and the Coast Guard. Additionally, each ship would be required to maintain a log book, which would record all deaths, missing individuals, alleged crimes, and passenger/crewmember complaints regarding theft, sexual harassment, and assault. The log books would be available to FBI and Coast Guard electronically, as well as to any law enforcement officer upon request. Statistical information would be posted on a public website maintained by the Coast Guard.

Improve Crime Scene Response. Each ship would be required to maintain anti-retroviral medications and medications used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases after assault, as well as equipment and materials for performing a medical examination to determine if a victim has been raped. A United States licensed medical practitioner would be on every ship to perform the necessary examinations and to administer treatment. Private medical information would be protected, and would require written authorization for release. Additionally, all passengers would be given free, immediate, and confidential access to a National Sexual Assault Hotline and the FBI.

Improve Training Procedures. The legislation would establish a program designed by the Coast Guard and the FBI, and certified by the Administrator of the Maritime Administration, to train appropriate crewmembers in crime scene investigation. Each ship would be required to maintain one crewmember trained and certified under such a program.

Enforce Safety and Environmental Standards: The Coast Guard is authorized to dispatch personnel to monitor discharge of waste, to verify logbook entries related to waste treatment and disposal, and to act as public safety officers by securing and collecting evidence of alleged crimes. The bill also establishes fair and equal remedies for persons injured in boating disasters. Additionally, the Secretary of the Coast Guard shall conduct a study of passenger security needs and report findings/suggestions to Congress.

"Millions of Americans will board cruise ships this year and they should know that they are safe," said Senator Kerry. "The tragic loss of Ken Carver's daughter Merrian should serve as a reminder that security and crime reporting regulations need to be tightened. Murky legal jurisdictions in international waters are no longer an excuse for failing to report serious crimes so that they may be effectively prosecuted. If U.S. passengers are at risk, then U.S. law should hold the industry accountable for their safety."

"Over the past year our organization and other victims of cruise crimes have met numerous times with cruise lines executives in an effort to have them voluntarily take the necessary steps as outlined in our proposals," said Carver, President of International Cruise Victims. "The cruise line industry has failed to step up to the challenge and make any significant changes to improve safety. That resistance to change is a clear signal to us that the only alternative left is for the United States Congress to move forward with legislation. I'm grateful to Senator Kerry and Rep. Matsui for their support in this endeavor."

"It is absolutely appalling that the cruise industry does not have basic reporting and prevention mechanisms in place to keep their patrons safe," said Rep. Matsui. "When a goliath like the cruise industry will not act in the best interest of the customers who are entrusting it with their personal well-being, then Congress has a responsibility to step in and shed some sunlight on the problem."

"It's important we continue the efforts to improve cruise ship safety which began in the last Congress, when I chaired the National Security Subcommittee," said Rep. Shays. "The bottom line is, the crime statistics provided by the cruise industry are inaccurate and inadequate. This must change."


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