Kendall Carver has dedicated his life to holding the cruise-line industry more accountable ever since his daughter, Merrian Carver, disappeared on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska in August of 2004.
Carver thought he had achieved greater accountability with the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in 2010. The bill was intended to provide greater transparency about crimes on cruise ships operating out of U.S. ports by publicizing all deaths, sexual assaults, thefts, missing persons and other crimes reported on cruise ships.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif. – who sponsored the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act – promised that it would provide greater transparency. However, at the request of the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard, the bill was changed shortly before it passed such that it withholds information about cases.
Kerry’s press secretary, Whitney Smith, said, the agencies “feared that reporting on pending cases could impact ongoing investigations and endanger lives and efforts to bring criminals to justice.”
The new act requires cruise lines operating out of the U.S. to keep a log of all serious reported crimes occurring on cruise ships and to report such crimes to the FBI. Prior to the act’s passage, cruise ships were self-regulating and not required under U.S. law to report crimes that occurred in international waters. Originally, the bill also required the Coast Guard to maintain a public database of all serious crimes on cruise ships. However, language added before its passage altered the bill so that only crimes “no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation” were reported in the public database.
The result is less transparency. Where the FBI once publicly reported more than 400 crimes a year, only six crimes on ships in the past nine months have been listed on the public database. And cases not investigated by the FBI — for example, allegations handled by a ship’s security staff — never will be reported in the database under the new law.
Carver and supporters of the legislation had no idea it had been changed until last year, when the first crime reports were posted. Carver said, “The bill is being sabotaged. The FBI is using the regulation to gut the intent of the bill. The FBI and the Coast Guard, the very people who should be looking out for United States citizens, have watered this thing down.”
In response to questions about changes in the bill, FBI spokeswoman said “We are not at liberty to discuss any information we may have fed into the legislative review process.” In addition, Senator Kerry’s office did not elaborate on what evidence, if any, the FBI used to determine that releasing crime statistics on cruise ships would adversely affect investigations.
Both Senator Kerry’s and Senator Matsui’s offices said that they plan to make corrections to the bill. Smith commented, “It is hardly the last word on the subject or the last effort needed to correct problems Carver and others identified.”
Do you agree that there should be complete transparency with respect to crimes that occur on cruise ships? What reasons might the FBI have for demanding that current criminal cases in connection with cruise ships be kept out of the public eye?
Do you agree that cruise ships operating out of the U.S. should be obligated under U.S. law to report crimes occurring in international waters?
For more information, please see Detroit Free Press.