Cruise Passenger Protection Act introduced in US Congress

On April 27th the Cruise Passenger Protection Act (CPPA) was introduced into the US House of Representatives and the Senate. Democratic Party Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal and Democratic Party House Representative Jim Himes, also from Connecticut, introduced the CPPA alongside Massachusetts Democratic Party Senator Edward J. Markey, California Democratic Party Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Texas Republican Representative Ted Poe.

The propsers claimed that the CPPA would add to the passenger safety measures in the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). It would add to crime reporting and video surveillance requirements, toughen medical standards, and hold cruise lines responsible for deaths at sea.

Blumenthal has introduced the CPPA, without success, in the previous two Congresses. However, in 2015 Blumenthal successfully amended the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill to require the US Coast Guard issue a report on the implementation of man-overboard technology by cruise lines.

Senator Markey said that “with serious safety and health incidents continuing to occur on cruise ships every year, we need to put measures in place to protect passengers who need medical services or become victims of crime.”

Specifically, the CPPA would:

1) Ensure a cruise vessel owner notifies the FBI within four hours of an alleged incident.

2) Ensure that if an alleged incident occurs while the vessel is still in a U.S. port, the FBI is notified before that vessel leaves the port.

3) Require vessel owners to also report an alleged offense to the U.S. Consulate in the next port of call, if the alleged offense is by or against a U.S. national.

4) Clarify that vessels must have video surveillance equipment in all passenger common areas, and other areas, where there is no expectation of privacy.

5) Allow individuals access to video surveillance records for civil action purposes.

6) Mandate that all video records are kept for 30 days after completion of the voyage.

7) Direct the Coast Guard to promulgate final standards within one year detailing requirements for the retention of video surveillance records.

8) Require that the internet website of alleged crimes on cruise ships indicate whether the reported crimes were committed against minors.

9) Direct the Department of Transportation to conduct a study determining the feasibility of having an individual charged with victim support services on board each passenger vessel.

10) Require integration of technology that can both capture images and detect when a passenger has fallen overboard.

11) Create medical standards requiring that a qualified physician and sufficient medical staff to be present and available for passengers, crew members receive basic life support training, automated defibrillators are accessible throughout the ship, and the initial safety briefing includes important emergency medical and safety information.

12) Ensure that, should a US passenger die aboard a vessel, his or her next of kin could request the vessel to return the deceased back to the US.

13) Hold cruise lines responsible for deaths at sea by ensuring families of victims are able to pursue fair compensation. This gives cruise passengers the same rights as airline passengers.

A 1920 federal law called the Death on the High Seas Act, which was intended to promote US maritime commerce, has long provided an economic shield for cruise lines by limiting the monetary damages they could face when a death of a non-wage earner such as a child or retiree occurs on a ship. Since this law does not account for damages for pain and suffering, in most cases cruise lines are liable only for funeral expenses. However, several lawsuits against cruise lines in recent years have publicized several fatalities and have shifted consumer sentiment, Washington legislators have claimed.