H.R. 3360: Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

H.R. 3360

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

Sponsor
Rep. Doris O. Matsui

Date
November 17, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3360, on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, under suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 3360 was introduced on July 28, 2009, by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote on July 30, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3360 adds a number of new regulations and requirements for cruise vessels. Among other things, the bill requires that cruise vessels have rails located not less than 42 inches above the cabin deck, have technology to detect when a passenger has fallen overboard, video surveillance, and time sensitive key technologies. The bill also includes increased reporting requirements for incidents of crime on cruise vessels. The legislation provides civil penalties for the violations of this section and allows the Secretary to deny entry into the U.S. to a vessel if the owner commits an act for which a penalty may be imposed. The requirements would apply to any cruise ship that carries at least 250 passengers and must be met 18 months after the bill's enactment.

The bill requires that each passenger room and crew cabin be equipped with entry doors that include peep holes, security latches, and time-sensitive key technology. The bill also requires cruise vessel owners to maintain video surveillance systems and make the recordings available if they are requested during the investigation of a crime. Owners would also be required to ensure that each room contained safety information and the location of the U.S. embassy and consulate in each country the vessel visits.

H.R. 3360 requires all cruise vessels to maintain a supply of onboard anti-retroviral medications to prevent sexually transmitted disease after sexual assault, have equipment for performing a medical examination in the case of a sexual assault, and have at least one medical staff worker certified in emergency medicine, family practice medicine, or internal medicine on the vessel at all times. In the case of sexual assault, the owner would have to provide free access to private communications and the contact information of the applicable law enforcement agency.

In addition, the legislation would require cruise vessel owners to establish procedures regarding which crew members have access to passenger staterooms and record all reports of crime in a log book. The bill also requires the Secretary of Transportation to maintain a compilation of all the incidents on an Internet site that provides an account of all alleged crimes recorded. Any cruise line taking on or discharging passengers in the U.S. would include a link on its Web site to the Transportation Department.

The owner would also be required to contact the nearest Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Office as soon as possible after the occurrence of a homicide, suspicious death, missing person, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, tampering with the ship, or theft in excess of $10,000.

The legislation would provide for a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per day for any person who violates the regulations in the bill and a maximum penalty of $50,000 for continuing violations. Any person that willfully violates a regulation would be subject to a criminal penalty of not more than $250,000 or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.

Finally, the bill requires the Secretary, in consultation with the FBI, to develop training standards to allow for the certification of cruise security personnel, crew members, and law enforcement officials on the appropriate methods for prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment. Cruise lines would be required to have at least one crewmember trained in crime scene investigation onboard while the vessel is in service.

 

Background

According to findings listed in the bill, there are roughly 200 overnight cruise-ships operating worldwide and carrying 2,000 passengers on average.  Sexual violence, the disappearance of passengers, theft, and other serious crimes have all been recorded during luxury cruises.  The findings go on to say that, "it can be difficult for professional crime investigators to immediately secure an alleged crime scene on a cruise vessel, recover evidence of an onboard offense, and identify or interview potential witnesses to the alleged crime."   

According to CBO, 125 to 150 cruise ships would be required to comply with the standards contained in the bill, which would impose a private sector mandate on those cruise lines.  However, CBO also states that most of the cruise lines already comply with the majority of the restrictions and that the mandate would be less than $139 million in 2009, which is the threshold established by the Unfunded mandate Reform Act (UMRA). 

H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, contained similar provisions to the underlying bill.  That legislation passed the House on October 23, 2009, by a vote of 385-11.

 

Cost

According to CBO, H.R. 3360 would cost about $5 million over five-years. In addition, the legislation would generate new revenues from new civil and criminal penalties. However, CBO estimates that the revenue generated by the legislation would be less than $500,000 annually.