Passenger safety – spelled out in U.S. cruising law

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Some continuity was in order.

For more than two decades, beginning in 1980, cruise vacations boomed in popularity at an annual average passenger growth rate of nearly 8 percent, with the vast majority of passengers sailing from U.S. ports.

In 2005, responding to questions about onboard safety and confusion about law enforcement’s involvement and jurisdiction in the cruise industry, the U.S. Congress began a series of five hearings that culminated in passage of a multifaceted act to address safety issues.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), enacted in July 2010, laid down the law for any cruise ship sailing to or from U.S. ports, covering everything from the installation of peepholes in stateroom doors to educational materials for passengers, and technology for responding to onboard emergencies.

“Previously, each cruise line had their own set of rules, their own set of safety guidelines to which they adhered,” says Jennifer Love, Royal Caribbean senior vice president for safety, security, environment, medical/public health and situation management. “What this did was bring everybody under one umbrella that says if you operate in the U.S., these are baseline standards. At Royal Caribbean we do a lot of things that we’re not required to do; we regularly go above and beyond what is required.

“So it formalized, for us, a lot of things that we were already doing on behalf of our guests.”

Ofer Lanker, RCL director of fleet and port security and investigations, said the CVSSA was a response to a public perception that cruise lines were underreporting or not properly responding to serious safety incidents. It explicitly requires cruise ships using U.S. ports or waters to report all serious crimes – such as homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault and theft over $10,000 – as soon as possible to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by telephone, to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security electronically, and to the U.S. Coast Guard in writing.

The act also requires cruise lines to provide every guest with a detailed security guide on how to report an incident as well as including a list of all U.S. embassies on their ship’s itinerary.

Among other requirements:

  • Each ship must have sexual assault evidence kits and medical personnel trained to use them – Royal Caribbean has gone beyond this and established a relationship with RAINN to create an even safer environment on its ships.
  • The door to every cabin – guest or crew – must have a peephole, as well as a security latch or deadbolt and time-sensitive key technology – Royal Caribbean.
  • Deck railings must be a minimum of 42 inches high.
  • Each vessel must be equipped with technology for “capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.”
  • Each ship must have acoustic hailing or warning devices to communicate with the entire vessel in the event of an emergency.

The CVSSA requires each cruise line to make relevant quarterly data on allegations available on their public websites.

“So you can actually go into the safety and security section and see, for example, how many incidents they had” Lanker explains, “and it also has a comparison to the Uniform Crime Reporting (statistics) on land.”