New law mandates reporting of all crimes and training of crew to handle crime scenes
By AMARA SOHN
A new law aimed at making it safer at sea went into effect Tuesday as the U.S. is attempting to keep cruise passengers from becoming the victims of crime.
In response to high profile disappearances and assaults on cruise ships over the years, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act into law.
The landmark legislation will require crew members to contact both the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard as soon as serious crimes are reported. It will also mandate cruise lines to train employees in collecting crime scene evidence, carry rape evidence kits and have forensic sexual assault specialists on board every ship. Some security requirements include railings that must be at least 42 inches in height, peepholes in cabins, and security cameras.
“Things have changed a lot since I used to work the cruise ships, and now with the state of the countries, you probably do need more restrictions,” said Janet Sweet of Fort Lauderdale, who used to work for a major cruiseline.
Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert from Cruise Lines International Association, or CLIA, based in Fort Lauderdale, supports the legislation and says its 25 member lines are already required to report all allegations of crime.
“Royal Caribbean, the Princesses, the Holland America’s, the Disney’s, they have most of these provisions,” Chiron said.
CLIA released a statement saying, “This new law would bring greater consistency and clarification to many industry practices and existing regulations…The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA’s number one priority. “
Phil Allen, Director of Port Everglades, believes this law will strengthen the 40 billion dollar cruise industry.
“First off, I think you need to recognize that cruising is safe already,” Allen said, adding that the new laws can’t hurt. “Anything that can be done to reassure them that they are safe at sea.”
A website will also soon be available with a list of crimes reported on every cruise ship.