(Hartford, CT) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined the family of George Smith IV in calling for comprehensive federal action to improve safety measures and consumer protections for the more than 23 million Americans who take cruises each year. This event followed Blumenthal and Senate colleague Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introducing the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015 (CPPA) that mandates cruise ships install modern safety technology, and requires critical consumer protection measures for passengers who are victims of crime or require medical attention. George Smith IV, of Greenwich, Connecticut disappeared ten years ago aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise, a tragedy that could have been prevented with man-overboard detection technology-- required under the legislation. The bill also establishes the Department of Transportation as the lead federal agency for consumer protection for cruise ship passengers.
“Although twelve years have passed since George Smith IV's disappearance, the cruise lines have done virtually nothing to implement lifesaving technology to prevent such tragic deaths. For the more than 23 million Americans who take cruises each year, this simple technology—as well as long overdue measures to protect cruise passengers who become victims of crime or require medical attention in international waters— cannot be further delayed. With serious health and safety incidents continuing to occur, passengers aboard these floating cities need and deserve need basic protections. Federal action is needed now,” Blumenthal said.
"Our son and brother George was murdered on his Royal Caribbean honeymoon cruise ten years ago this week. His murder investigation has resulted in no arrests and no indictments. The lack of answers and justice for George is a perfect example of why the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015 is so important. Cruise passengers must be protected by our federal government because cruise companies have shown time and time again that their incentives are to protect their reputations and stock prices, and not to protect those Americans that choose to go on cruise vacations. We are very thankful to Senator Blumenthal and Senator Markey for their reintroduction of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015 and their efforts to protect future cruise passengers,” said Bree Smith, sister of George Smith IV.
Last month in the Commerce Committee, Blumenthal successfully amended the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill to require the Coast Guard issue a report on the use of man-overboard technology by cruise lines. Despite its life-saving potential, cruise lines have been slow to implement the technology and secretive about their plans for doing so.
The CPPA addresses the outdated and inadequate safety technology currently aboard many cruise ships—placing passengers at risk. Since January 2015 alone, 12 passengers have fallen overboard while on cruise ships. The CPPA would require all ships to install video capture and detection capability technology so that falls can be promptly detected and better prevented. The bill also addresses the widely overlooked problem of little to no protection for passengers who are victims of fraud or crime while aboard, or require medical care aboard ships. U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) will be introducing the House companion of this legislation.
The Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015 would:
- Require vessels to integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers and detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available;
- Improve medical standards aboard cruise ships.
- Require vessels to be staffed with an appropriate number of sea marshals, who have been certified by, and are operating under the jurisdiction of, the United States Coast Guard.
- Establish the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead federal agency for consumer protection for cruise ship passengers, similar to the role the Department has in aviation consumer protection;
- Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don't have, before they book their tickets.
- Establish a consumer complaints toll-free hotline telephone number, give the DOT the authority to investigate complaints, and create an Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection, which would be charged with evaluating current consumer protections and generating recommendations for improvements;
- Require the reporting of crimes against minors to the list of currently reported crime statistics.
- Address crimes on cruise ships by strengthening video surveillance requirements in public areas, and setting requirements for the amount of time cruises lines must retain videos;
- Establish a victim advocate to be the primary point of contact in assisting victims, including helping the victim to understand their rights in international waters, get access to appropriate law enforcement and consulate services, and have access to necessary victim support services.