President Barack Obama signed legislation that requires cruise lines to contact the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard as soon as a suspicious death or assault of a passenger on a ship is reported.
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, passed earlier this month by Congress, also requires the agencies be notified after the disappearance of a U.S. national from a ship, and it requires that passengers claiming sexual assault be given immediate access to a national sexual assault hotline as well as a sexual assault forensic exam and medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Ships also will be required to install peep holes on cabin doors and make other changes.
The legislation was introduced more than a year ago by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., who joined Obama at the signing along with a constituent, Laurie Dishman of Sacramento, Calif., who wrote to Matsui.
The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents major lines operating in U.S. waters, says it supports the legislation, noting that it already does as a matter of standard practice much of what is required in the new law. "We share Congress' efforts to ensure that cruising remains safe," CLIA president and CEO Terry Dale said in a statement on the signing. "The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA's number one priority. Although millions of guests each year enjoy a safe cruise vacation, we welcome the opportunity to ensure consistency across our member line fleets."
Dale says that while many ships in the CLIA fleet already feature 42-inch railings, peepholes in all cabins, onboard video surveillance systems and other items required in the legislation, the new law will make these and other new provisions consistent across the fleet. "We appreciate the work Congress and the administration have done to bring consistency and clarity to the security and safety laws and regulations for our industry," Dale says. "We look forward to continuing our longstanding work with the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, and law enforcement both here and around the world to ensure the bill's provisions are implemented appropriately."