It was in 2005 that I first appeared before Congressional Hearings to address cruise ship safety and security. I was invited to testify as a Maritime expert to assist the members of Congress in addressing safety concerns onboard cruise ships, and answer questions related to the type of problems most prevalent on cruise ships, and what laws govern the cruise ship industry when something does happen to a United States passenger. At the Congressional Hearings, several victims on cruise ships also testified, including victims of sexual assaults, and other crimes.
At the time, I was representing the family of George Smith, whose son George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. His body was never located, and the FBI actively investigated the case for several years before closing the file without any resolution. It was believed that his disappearance was a result of foul play, and it was suspected that he was actually murdered onboard the ship. However, no body was ever found, making it difficult to establish and prove foul play, and no one was ever charged criminally with his disappearance.
These initial Congressional Hearings on cruise ship safety and security led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama. This legislation for the first time created mandatory reporting requirements on the part of the cruise ship industry regarding criminal activity occurring onboard their ships, and provided other provisions designed to address the problem of sexual assaults onboard cruises. The legislation also addressed passengers going overboard on cruise ships, and required the cruise ship industry to implement available technology to detect when a passenger goes overboard so that immediate search and rescue efforts could commence.
Many felt that this legislation did not have enough teeth, and that cruise ship industry was not fully complying with the laws. International Cruise Victims Association, a very active organization representing victims of cruise ship incidents all over the world, has been very active in speaking out about problems on cruise ships, and seeking increased legislation governing the cruise ship industry, as well as seeking to have the prior legislation enforced. Recently, I attended an awards ceremony called the National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony in Washington D.C., where Kendall Carver, the original founder and president of International Cruise Victims Association was recognized for his tremendous efforts in assisting victims of cruise ship incidents, including sexual assault victims and others who lost loved ones on a cruise ship. Kendall Carver lost his daughter on a cruise ship when she mysteriously went missing during a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska. Her disappearance remains a mystery as the cruise ship company never reported her disappearance promptly. Her family had to hire an investigator to lead them to the cruise which she disappeared on and by the time an investigation became active, evidence was gone, memories faded, and as is typical, without any body being found, the disappearance stayed a mystery and unsolved.
You can read the rest of this post here: Part Two