The International Cruise Victims Association, Inc. (ICV), a non-profit corporation formed by victims and families of victims of cruise crimes, applauded Congressional action to move the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009 through Committee and for Congressional consideration. The pending legislation passed the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously last week, S.B. 588, and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is expected to begin mark-up of H.R. 1485 in the coming weeks.
"The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009 is moving forward so quickly because of the tireless efforts of Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who each had constituents come to them for help," said ICV President Ken Carver, whose own daughter went missing on a cruise ship in 2004. "Every day that goes by without these necessary protections in place, Americans are unknowingly putting themselves at risk - which is why it is absolutely imperative that The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009 is signed-into law as quickly as possible."
Volunteer members of the ICV have long lobbied for legislation to be put in place to protect cruise ship passengers. The legislation they have been instrumental in crafting will require that that all crimes that occur aboard cruise ships be reported to the Coast Guard and Federal Bureau of Investigations. Currently, cruise ships operating under foreign flags of convenience are not required under U.S. law to report crimes occurring outside of U.S. territorial waters.
As this crucial legislation moves forward, it serves as a sign to many amongst the ICV's community of followers that progress is being made towards ensuring the safety of Americans abroad. The measure approved by the Senate Commerce Committee is the first of its kind; a major victory in the fight for cruise passengers' rights. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is expected to take up debate on the companion bill in the near future.
Carver expressed his hopeful outlook as the legislation moves forward and urged Congress to act swiftly: "Final passage of this bill would be proof to the world that our small group of volunteers with limited funds has been able to make a difference in the safety of Americans," he said. "When the Cruise Safety bill is signed into law, it will serve to protect Americans across the nation during what ought to be relaxing vacations."
"We learned during Congressional hearings that there has not been a conviction of an accused rape in recent history," said Congresswoman Matsui.
"With continued news coverage of recent rapes on cruise ships, it is clear that legislation is both urgent and necessary. I applaud Senator Kerry and the Senate Committee for making the safety of Americans a priority, and look forward to making significant progress moving this legislation forward in the coming weeks in the House of Representatives."
"The term 'duty free' does not apply to the safety of passengers," said Senator Kerry. "Murky lines of jurisdiction are no longer an excuse for risking the safety of millions of Americans who will board cruise ships this year. Security, safety, and accountability must all be strengthened to hold criminals accountable and end the cycle of serious crimes on these vessels. I thank Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) for giving this issue the timely attention it deserves and call on my colleagues to quickly move this legislation to the Senate floor."
ICV will continue to work with Members of Congress in both chambers, on both sides of the aisle, to ensure that this legislation is passed in a timely fashion with the support it deserves.