Cummings Works to Improve Safety on Cruise Ships

Thursday, September 20, 2007
During a House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing regarding cruise ship safety practices and procedures, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Chairman of the Subcommittee, called on the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to work directly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to train personnel in the handling of crimes committed on cruise ships.

“When people take a cruise, they are expecting an experience that will be a highlight of their lives,” Congressman Cummings said. “In the unfortunate event that a crime is committed against one of these people, we need to ensure that the proper foundation is in place to process the incident effectively and preserve the evidence needed to support criminal prosecutions.”

Following a related hearing in March that examined the handling of cases of sexual assault aboard cruise ships, today’s hearing provided an update on the status of a voluntary agreement outlining the steps CLIA members follow to report alleged crimes to the FBI and Coast Guard. The agreement also identifies the FBI as the U.S. agency responsible for determining whether to investigate or respond to these allegations.

“It became clear during the testimony that the FBI simply does not have the resources necessary to provide the type of support necessary to maximize safety and security on cruise ships,” Congressman Cummings said. “I have called upon CLIA to work directly with the FBI to train cruise personnel—particularly with regards to the preservation of evidence protocol. It is especially important to ensure that cruise lines are prepared to handle the unique challenge of responding to sexual assaults, and that they are prepared to meet all of the physical and mental health needs of victims.” Additionally, at the March hearing, Congressman Cummings asked CLIA to collaborate with victims of crimes on cruises to discuss specific measures that can be implemented to improve the safety and security of passengers on ships. After receiving a progress report at today’s hearing regarding these discussions, Congressman Cummings requested that CLIA and the victims provide a report within 90 days providing details on specific improvements that will be adopted.

The Congressman also applauded actions taken by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to improve security and encouraged all members of CLIA to follow suit. These improvements include the ongoing installation of peep holes in ship doors, the expansion of security cameras—including in corridors around cabins, increased numbers of security personnel, and expanded background checks on these personnel. “In order to effectively improve the safety of cruise ships, all parties involved must approach this issue with a pragmatic and reasonable attitude,” Congressman Cummings said. “I believe that significant progress is being made to improve cruise lines, and I will continue to hold these parties accountable to ensure that this progress continues.”

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