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Brett Rivkind
Brett Rivkind
Attorney • (305) 374-0565

Cruise Ship Security and Safety Standards Addressed by United States Coast Guard

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I have previously written about the Cruise Vessel and Security Act of 2010 signed into law by President Obama. In accordance with provisions of the Cruise Vessel and Security Act of 2010, there must be at least one crewmember onboard a passenger cruise ship that is trained in crime scene preservation training.

Section 3508 of the Act dictates that there is crime scene preservation training for the passenger ships. The crewmembers must be properly trained regarding the appropriate methods for prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities that occur in the international maritime setting.

I have blogged previously about this Act that was signed into legislation by President Obama. The Act was a result of numerous Congressional hearings that initially started following the disappearance of George Smith. Our firm represented the parents of George Smith. Many issues arose regarding cruise ship security and safety for United States passenger travelling on cruise ships that travel through international waters. I have discussed the complexities of the laws governing cruise ships that operate in an international maritime environment, and fly flags of foreign countries. The cruise ships do so specifically to avoid not only taxation in the United States, but also certain regulatory aspects that apply to United States flag ships, as well as employment laws that would apply if the ships were flagged in the United States.

As a result of the complexities involved in dealing with crimes and other types of incidents that occurr in international waters, including disappearances on cruise ships, Congress has taken a hard look at the cruise ship industry following the disappearance of George Smith. Many questions arose as to the appropriate handling of crimes onboard cruise ships, including the preservation of evidence following potential criminal activity. In the case of George Smith, it was suspected that he went overboard during his honeymoon cruise as a result of foul play. There were many issues that surfaced regarding the initial investigation and reporting of the incident, as well as evidence preservation following his disappearance. The cruise line was harshly criticized following his disappearance for what was alleged to be an inappropriate investigation, and failure to properly preserve necessary evidence.

I testified at the first Congressional hearing addressing the issues regarding cruise ship security and safety. I was an invited speaker by Congress as a maritime expert. I have been handling maritime cases now for almost 30 years. I presented testimony regarding my observations over the years regarding security and safety aboard cruise ships, and where there were deficiencies that needed to be addressed by Congress.

I also assisted in the formation of the organization International Cruise Victims, which has been relentless in pursuing safety legislation for cruise ships, both here in the United States, and on an international level.

The Unites States Coast Guard has published what is referred to as CG-543 Policy Letter 11-10, Cruise Vessel Security Standards and Curricula, which is designed to provide guidance for compliance with the provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act regarding the training of crewmembers and appropriate crime scene preservation.

The Coast Guard also issued a document titled Model Course CVSSA 11-01, Crime Prevention, Detection, Evidence Preservation and Reporting. These course materials provides for interesting reading as it states in its introduction that the course is intended to serve as a specific guidance upon which education and training providers can immediately base instruction in prevention, detection, evidence preservation and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment. The course materials provide guidance on implementation of provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, and is extremely helpful in assuring that this much needed legislation is actually implemented for the benefit and safety of all the passengers who sail on cruise ships. Time will tell how swiftly the cruise line companies implement all of these procedures and what effect they have regarding safety onboard the cruise ships. We believe the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act was well needed, and will in fact result in increased safety for all passengers who decide to take a pleasure cruise aboard one of the many cruise ships.

Our firm continues to be safety advocates for those injured or harmed at sea.