International Cruise Victims Association, Inc., (ICV), which is a not for profit corporation, which was formed by victims and families of victims of crimes and other acts aboard cruise ships, issued a press release that they have joined with another victim’s group from Europe called the Victim Support Europe in order to push for passage of safety laws for passengers on cruise ships in Europe.
Victim Support Europe, as reported on their website, is a network of 26 non-governmental victims support organization in 21 European countries. They provide assistance and information to victims of crimes. They also promote the establishment and development of victim rights and victim services throughout Europe.
International Cruise Victims Association, Inc., which I had the pleasure of assisting at their inception with the formation of the not for profit corporation, is comprised of victims of crimes on cruise ships, their families and friends, and individuals concerned with the problems of victimization and disappearances on cruise ships. Their website has many very disturbing and telling stories of events that have occurred on cruise ships, including sexual assaults, and disappearances.
The President of International Cruise Victims Association, Inc., Kendall Carver, lost his daughter when she disappeared during a cruise. One should read the story involving his daughter, and the battle he faced against the cruise ship company in trying to get information about her disappearance. The case involving his daughter was a topic during Congressional hearings that I spoke at as a Maritime Law expert. Disappearances aboard cruise ships came to light with the public and with Congress following the disappearance of the Honeymooner, George Smith, during his honeymoon cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line vessel. Our firm represented the parents of George Smith in their quest to obtain information from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Eventually, all claims against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines were settled out of court, including an agreement to provide additional information that the cruise line company had withheld from the Smith family until the case was settled. During the litigation with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and the fight to obtain information regarding the disappearance of their son, the Smith family and the wife of George Smith, Jennifer Hagel Smith, were at odds over the best course of action to take against the cruise lines. The Smith family always believed that litigation should continue until full and complete information was obtained from the cruise line through the discovery process, which appeared to be the only way to get the cruise line to cooperate and provide full and complete information to the Smith family. There was an initial settlement agreement that Jennifer Hagel Smith negotiated with the cruise line, as the Personal Representative of the Estate, which the Smith family opposed in the Probate Court in Connecticut where the Estate was opened. During this litigation, all of the parties settled with the cruise line company, and litigation with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has finally ended. However, the quest for justice for George Smith, and the answers the Smith family desperately sought, have not come to fruition.
The George Smith case received a lot of notoriety. By the many media appearances our firm made with the Smith family, the public awareness increased, and so did the involvement of our United States Congress. They held several safety meetings regarding cruise ships. I was invited as a Maritime Law expert to address questions Congress had about issues pertaining to crimes and safety aboard cruise ships. This is where I had the pleasure of meeting Kendall Carver personally. His organization has been relentless in pushing for safety legislation pertaining to cruise ships. The efforts of International Cruise Victims Association, along with others, led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which was signed into law last July by President Obama.
The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act signed into law by President Obama will be the model used by the Victim Support Europe group in their efforts to pass similar legislation regarding cruise ships in Europe, and they will work together with ICV for this purpose.
David McKenna, President of Victim Support Europe, aptly stated, “whether at home or abroad, at sea or onboard any other forms of transportation, people have the same fundamental right to safety and protection as well as the right to an effective remedy and assistance in case any of their rights are breached. Victims Support Europe (VSE) acknowledges that more needs to be done to ensure that victims of crimes committed on cruise ships and their families are able to access support and have their rights protected. VSE therefore supports International Cruise Victim Association’s call to strengthen the legislative protection for victims of crimes within the EU, to ensure that all victims are protected and given equal access to rights and services in the aftermath of crime.”
Our firm, as safety advocates for passengers and crewmembers harmed at sea, support this movement and wish these two fine organizations success in achieving passage of such worthwhile and important legislation. We are proud to have been part of the initial hearings at Congress which eventually led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act. We applaud the efforts of these two fine organizations.