Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act
President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) into law in July 2010. It was the first piece of legislation designed to improve safety and security of passengers aboard cruise ships. The CVSSA addressed the following issues: information, penalties; staff training and certification; victim privacy; record keeping; reporting; prevention; and intervention.Penalties Under CVSSA
Any cruise line owner or operator who violates the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act is subject to criminal and civil penalties. In addition, violations may result in the denial of clearance for ships to leave or enter a port in the United States.
The CVSSA provides for a civil penalty of $25,000 per day of the violation. The maximum for the violation is $50,000. A person can be subject to criminal prosecution and be fined as much as $250,000 or up to one year in prison, or both for a willful violation of the CVSSA.Required Information Under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act
The CVSSA mandates the statistical compilation on the Internet. The Department of Transportation maintains the Cruise Ship Incident Report page and it is updated quarterly. Each crime is identified by the perpetrator as passenger, crew or other.
The crimes listed for the report are:
- Sexual assault
- Theft >$10,000
- Suspicious Death
- Assault with serious bodily injury
- Firing or tampering with vessel
- Missing US National
The cruise lines are identified by name in the quarterly CVSSA report as follows:
- Royal Caribbean
- Disney Cruise Line
- Princess Cruises
- Carnival Cruise Lines
- Holland America Cruise Lines
- Mediterranena Shipping Cruises
- Crystal Cruise Line
- Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Celebrity Cruise Lines
Upon signing, the CVSSA required:
- The issuance of inspection, certification and training guidelines within 6 months
- No later than 1 year after CVSSA was enacted, the Secretary and FBI Director were required to develop the necessary training standards on the appropriate methods of reporting criminal activities in international waters; prevention; evidence preservation; and detection.
- The above referenced training standards were to be developed for law enforcement officials, crewmembers and security personnel.
- After two years when the training standards were established, which means three years after the enactment of CVSSA, no ship may carry a US citizen as a passenger or enter the United States port unless there is at least one crew member on the ship who is certified after successfully completing training in the reporting of criminal activities; evidence preservation; prevention; and detection.
Under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, vessel operators/owners are required to contact the nearest field office of the FBI or legal attaché as soon as they can after a crime has occurred. Additionally, the owner/operator must file an Internet report of the crime in a portal designated by the Secretary.
The overarching goal for the reporting of crimes under CVSSA is “borderless reporting”. To accomplish this, CVSSA sets forth the parameters of applicability for reporting requirements such as:
- if the vessel is owned in part or in whole by United States Corporation or person without regard to the victim’s nationality if the crime was committed within the United States maritime jurisdiction
- if the crime is committed outside the jurisdiction of any nation by or against the United States national
- if the crime occurs in the territorial sea of the United States
- if the crime occurs on a vessel during the voyage that the parts from or arrives at the US port and is committed by or against the United States national
All vessels that are governed by the CVSSA are required to maintain and keep a centralized logbook for all criminal complaints. Upon request by any law enforcement official, agent of the FBI or Coast Guard who, during an investigation, were performing official duties the vessel shall make the centralized criminal complaint logbook available.Victim Privacy Requirements of the CVSSA
Unless the Masters of the vessel have the prior knowledge and written approval of a patient or the patient’s next of kin, all information including specifically medical information, must be treated confidentially. Furthermore, that information cannot be released to the owner of the vessel, the cruise line or any legal representative of either the operator or owner. The exceptions to the victim privacy requirement include:
- providing information in the course of an investigation to a law enforcement official who is performing official duties.
- Releasing information to maintain or secure the safety of crew or passengers on the vessel
- other than medical findings information necessarily included in the centralized crime complaint logbook
- Under the CVSSA, operators and owners of vessels are required to maintain:
- medications designed at preventing sexually-transmitted diseases including supplies of anti-retroviral medication
- adequate materials and equipment for performing a rape exam/rape kits necessary for the evaluation of the patient for trauma, relevant medical services and provide medical care
The required medical staff for a vessel – licensed physician or registered nurse - are required to have completed a credentialing process including meeting the guidelines of the American College of Emergency Physicians in relation to the care and treatment of sexual assault victims; a minimum of three years post graduate emergency medicine and clinical practice experience.
The medical staff for any vessel under the CVSSA are required to prepare and provide victims of sexual assault with medical documentations concerning the exam and findings. The medical staff is also required to make available to the patient immediate and free access to local law enforcement, Embassy or Consulate, Coast Guard, FBI and the National Sexual Assault Hotline program or any other victim advocacy service. That access is required to be made available through the Internet accessible computer terminal and telephone lines so that the sexual assault victim may confidentially contact support services, legal information and attorneys and or law enforcement.Prevention Measures Under the CVSSA
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act made specific requirements for the daily operations and the vessels such as:
- Limitations on crew access to passenger cabins including the implementation of procedures and restrictions regarding which crewmembers have access to passenger cabins. The time periods when crew would have access to passenger cabins was also limited.
- Cruise line operators were required to provide a certain security guide for each passenger. The guide is required to describe the security personnel and medical staff who are designated for purposes of prevention and response to medical or criminal situations. The security guide must also instruct and inform passengers how to report any crime to the appropriate law enforcement in the United States no matter where it occurs. Lastly the security guide is required to be published on the website for the cruise ship company.
- All cabin doors, passenger and crew, are required to be equipped with either peep holes or some other means of visual identification
- All cabin doors must have security latches and key technology that is time sensitive
- Cruise ships are required under CVSSA to maintain electronic video surveillance for the purposes of assisting in the documentation of crimes. The video is also required to be provided for prosecution as evidence. Additionally. Tthe records of the video surveillance must be made available to law enforcement during investigation upon request
The CVSSA attorneys at Gerson and Schwartz have more than 80 years of collective experience in representing victims of cruise ship crimes. Our cruise ship sexual assault and rape cases are handled on a contingent fee basis which means that there are no lawyer's fees unless we recover for you. Contact us today for a confidential consultation at 1-877-475-2905.