New Cruise Victim Information Website Won’t Provide Much Help, But It’s a Good Start

We’ve often discussed in this blog that a major problem with cruise safety is simply lack of cruise safety information. There is no one clearinghouse or database where potential passengers can check a cruise line’s safety record, or see if anybody has been injured or assaulted on a cruise.

The department of Transportation, with the help of a Senator, has recently announced a plan that may at least take one step towards alleviating that problem.

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New Website Consolidates Information

With urging from the International Cruise Victims’ Association, (ICV), the Department of Transportation has announced that it will launch a new website that will consolidate information about cruise safety that is compiled from other governmental agencies.

Previously, public information had to be researched under each separate agency. Many consumers have no idea what agency to complain to when there was a problem with a cruise line. For example, a criminal assault may have to be researched through the Department of Justice, while also involving the U.S. Coast Guard and FBI.

The website is a joint effort between the Department of Transportation and senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, who has long advocated for cruise line passenger rights.

Consumers also will be able to log complaints with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), including by phone at 202-523-5807, but it’s uncertain how involved that agency will get when dealing with injury victims.

FMC and Website Have Limited Ability to Resolve Claims

The FMC does provide some assistance to injured cruise passengers, requiring that all cruise lines carry sufficient assets and finances to pay for “casualties” (though not necessarily non-fatal injuries). This ensures that a large cruise carrier won’t avoid paying a judgment against it (although in reality, almost every major cruise line is insured anyway for injury loss).

The agency has no ability to get between you and an unfavorable cruise ticket. So the restrictive and punitive terms of some of these tickets, which constitute contracts, can’t be altered by the FMC.

For disputes between you and a cruise ship, all the FMC can do is act as a “go between,” conveying your complaint to the cruise line and trying to facilitate a resolution.

In reality, all federal agencies have a poor history of helping consumers. And the site seems to be, at best, a clearinghouse of the limited information that cruise lines must report. Thus, Senator Rockefeller’s calling the site a “game changer” may be a little overstated.

According to some reports, the cruise line industry wasn’t even aware that the website was being implemented. This is no surprise, as had they been aware, there likely would have been some pushback, although the cruise lines have little say on what information the government puts on its own websites.

If you’re injured at sea or on a cruise, get your questions answered by experienced maritime attorneys. Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: Len Radin via Compfight cc

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