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

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010: Has It Improved Cruise Ship Safety?

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With the increasing number of problems occurring on cruise ships, including vessels stranded at sea, fires, and of course the major catastrophe involving the Costa Concordia, the cruise line industry has received greater scrutiny over the recent years from Congress.

We’ve heard more about passengers going overboard on cruise ships.  We’ve heard about the lack of security on cruise ships.  There has been issues regarding inadequate procedures to preserve evidence when a crime occurs onboard a ship.  Issues have arisen whether there is adequate surveillance videos available on the cruise ships to detect criminal activity and protect passengers.  The cruise lines has also been required to report criminal activity onboard the cruise ships so that the information can be made public, increasing the public awareness as to problems that do occur onboard cruise ships.

The cruise ship companies spend millions of dollars on lobbying efforts to avoid tighter regulations and laws that may affect their profits, and cruise ship operators enjoy very favorable laws concerning claims by either passengers or their crewmembers when any injury or death occurs onboard a cruise ship.

I’ve been helping victims of crimes and accidents on cruise ships for almost 30 years now, and I’ve seen an explosion within the cruise ship industry concerning the size of the ships and the number of passengers and crewmembers these mega cruise ships are carrying these days.

Over the years, the problems of sexual assaults, and other crimes aboard cruise ships have increased drastically, and knowledge about these type of incidents have spread, catching the attention of the public and the United States Congress.

In 2005, George Smith disappeared during a honeymoon cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship the Brilliance of the Seas.  I had the privilege of representing the family of George Smith.  The case received immediate media attention.  It was a story book wedding.  A beautiful couple.  They were on their honeymoon when George Smith disappeared.  Evidence suggested foul play, including blood found in his cabin, and on the overhang outside his balcony where it was determined he fell from, and into the ocean.  His body was never found.  No one was determined responsible for the incident.  The incident remains an open file within the FBI.  No criminal prosecution ever was brought.  There were some persons of interest that the FBI was focusing on, but without a body a criminal prosecution is very difficult.  In addition, experts stated that actions on the part of the cruise line immediately following the disappearance resulted in spoliation of important evidence, and lost evidence, that could have helped determine who was responsible.

I had the privilege of being invited by the United States Congress to speak at Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship security and safety following the incident.  Eventually, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, designed to address some of the problems Congress determined were prevalent in the cruise ship industry.  Critics have suggested it’s not enough, and there are too many loop holes, and that the cruise ship companies have not in fact complied with the requirements of the act.

I am attaching a link to an article that just came out discussing that the government accounting office (GAO) issued a report indicating its findings from a review of the act and how it has played out since its passage.  Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Matsui (D-CA) requested this study.  As the article states the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) which I had the privilege of assisting in the initial formation of this organization, has been vocal in expressing their concerns regarding the lack of progress in implementing many of the provisions of the CVSSA.

The report does confirm that the cruise line companies have not implemented key provisions of the act.  The article is interesting to read and see the ongoing issues that are still occurring in the cruise ship industry despite passage of the act.

My firm applauds the ICV in their continuing efforts to monitor the progress of implementing the key provisions of the CVSSA.  The ICV was instrumental in seeing that this act got passed in the first place.  They are a continuing watch dog of the cruise ship industry, and their representatives are in constant contact with Congress regarding the lack of compliance with key provisions of the act, constantly questioning why the safety measures have not been fully implemented, and what the government is doing about it.

Our firm continues to act as safety advocates for anyone harmed at sea.