Cruise lines in Senator’s crosshairs Looking to improve protections for cruise passengers, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D. WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced the “Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013.” The legislation aims to define the rights of cruise passengers, as well as close gaps in cruise crime reporting requirements. Senator Rockefeller also chaired an oversight hearing of the Commerce Committee last month called, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection.” Senator Rockefeller’s legislation and the hearing build on the Senator’s ongoing oversight of the cruise industry. Back in March 2012, after a series of safety incidents on cruise ships, he held a hearing on whether cruise industry regulations sufficiently protect passengers. Since then, several cruise ship incidents hit the headlines, including the Carnival Triumph fire in February 2013, which left passengers stranded at sea for days without power, plumbing, and adequate food
sources. After this incident, Rockefeller wrote Admiral Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, and Micky Arison, Chairman of the Board and then-CEO of Carnival, to express his serious concerns surrounding recent cruise ship incidents. “Rather than take these legitimate oversight questions seriously,” says the Senator’s office, “Carnival’s response played down concerns about recent incidents and ignored questions about whether Carnival intended to reimburse the Coast Guard and Navy for its cost of responding to several incidents—an issue the company later reconsidered when it chose to reimburse federal taxpayers.” On getting Carnival’s “insufficient response,” Senator Rockefeller broadened his oversight efforts of the cruise industry. On May 7, 2013, he sent letters to Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, which represent 78 percent of the global cruise industry, to determine whether their procedures on passenger safety and security were enough to protect consumers.
Rockefeller has now followed this up by introducing legislation to “compel the cruise industry to implement strong consumer protections.” The Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013 would: • Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts before they book their passenger tickets. • The Department of Transportation (DOT) would be given the authority to investigate consumer complaints. • The DOT would establish a toll-free hotline for consumer complaints. • Make all crimes alleged on cruise ships publicly available information. Cruise lines would also be required to place video cameras in public areas. • The DOT would establish a victim advocate who can provide assistance to victims on board a cruise ship, make sure the victim is aware of his or her rights in international waters, and get access to appropriate law enforcement officers.
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10 MARINE LOG August 2013
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