New cruise ship safety legislation will require peep holes, 42-inch guard rails and on-deck video surveillance.
Addressing concerns over cruise ship safety and transparency, President Barack Obama this week signed into law new measures that mandate crime reporting, require aid for rape victims and force all ships to have cabin peep holes and guard rails of a certain height.
An industry group said most cruise lines already abide by the rules, but that the law brings welcome consistency.
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act touches on safety design features as well as practices of reporting and dealing with allegations of crime, including:
• Requiring 42-inch guard rails and peep holes in the cabin doors of every passenger and crew member, on-deck video surveillance and an emergency sound system.
• Forcing ships to maintain a log book that records deaths, missing people and allegations of crime.
• Requiring rape kits, medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and a trained forensic sexual assault specialist to be aboard each ship.
• Mandating training of crew members in preventing and detecting crime, preserving evidence and reporting crimes in international waters.
Cruise Lines International Association, which includes the nation’s major cruise lines, released a statement supporting the law. So did the International Cruise Victims Association, which helped spur legislation.
Miami-based maritime attorney Charles Lipcon, however, called the act “a pretend fix.”
“It’s full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” said Lipcon, who represents passengers who have been victimized by crime on cruise ships.
Some parts of the law are helpful, Lipcon said, like mandating 42-inch guard rails and peep holes. But the law should have gone farther to require video cameras in hallways and deadbolts or chain locks on doors and to prohibit over-serving of alcohol, he said.
Still, he said, the impending law has likely spurred change for the better.
“I think cruise lines have been doing a better job of reporting crimes, contacting the FBI, preserving evidence and cooperating with law enforcement,” Lipcon said. “I think they wanted to put their best foot forward, and they have.”
While most cruise lines are likely already following the new laws, public perception could change as a result, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com. “It’s important for the industry because the perception that cruise ships aren’t safe is ludicrous, but unless cruise lines step up to the plate and say, `We’re willing to be accountable,’ they will not be able to change that perception,” she said.