I first met Kendall Carver in 2005 in Washington D.C., when we were both testifying at Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security. He was a very passionate man, having recently lost his daughter Merrian when she went missing during a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. At the time, I was representing the family of George Smith. George Smith had also gone missing on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship during his honeymoon cruise. Mr. Carver and I instantly formed a bond, which remains to this day.
This past Friday, my daughter and I attended the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony in Washington D.C., where Mr. Carver, deservedly so, received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the United States Department of Justice. It was a very moving ceremony, where well-deserving recipients of the awards were honored for their achievements in devoting their lives to helping victims of crimes. Mr. Carver was recognized for his relentless pursuit of justice for the victims of cruise ship crimes, and the support he has provided to the families and friends of the victims. He has had a very meaningful impact on the safety of the cruise ship industry. He started the International Cruise Victims Association, Inc., and he was instrumental in helping to enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.
The International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) was formed shortly after his daughter went missing, following the Congressional Hearings we both testified at. I had the honor of helping Mr. Carver form the International Cruise Victims Association. I have watched ICV grow leaps and bounds since its inception, increasing its membership, and gaining international recognition. It has helped many victims of cruise ship incidents, including crimes of sexual assaults.
Brett Rivkind with Mr. and Mrs. Kendall Carver
Mr. Carver has been relentless in his pursuit of better safety laws for cruise ships to protect the millions of passengers traveling on cruise ships each year. The laws he has helped get passed and the laws he continues to push for help make cruise ships safer for everyone. He has also been instrumental in bringing public awareness to the problems that happen on board cruise ships. Prior to the Congressional Hearings on cruise ship safety and security in 2005, little was known about the magnitude of crimes that happen on board cruises.
The cruise ship industry was often flying under the radar with respect to safety and security issues. Thanks to the Congressional Hearings, the efforts of many victims of cruise ships crimes, and the relentless efforts of the ICV, there is now a greater spotlight on the cruise ship industry. I have been handling maritime cases involving the cruise ship industry for over 30 years from here in Miami Florida, the cruise ship capital of the world. I have definitely seen a difference on the part of the cruise ship companies with respect to stepping up to the plate to address safety and security concerns, which is a direct result of this spotlight. The cruise lines know they are being much more carefully watched than they had been in the past. This does not mean that the cruise industry is doing enough, and that they do not need watchdogs, including civil lawsuits to hold them accountable for wrongdoing when profits get in the way of safety. However, there has been improvements as a result of the increased exposure and accountability, caused by greater public awareness of the issues.
I was proud to see Mr. Carver accept the award and receive the recognition he so much deserves. Often times, efforts such as his, although they make a big difference, go unrecognized. His efforts definitely deserve to be recognized, and having just left Washington after being with Mr. Carver, I see so no signs of him slowing down at this point!