On July 24, 2014 a senate Committee Hearing chaired by retiring Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, illustrated the necessity for better enforcement of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act 0f 2010Act. The Bill S. 1340, known as the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, perfects the intent of congress in passing the 2010 legislation. Despite, efforts made by the cruise lines to thwart the passage of this legislation, crime victim advocates and personal injury attorneys such as Miami based lawyer, Philip M. Gerson of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. still pursue justice for passengers on the high seas. Mr. Gerson addressed congress detailing the negligent behavior of the cruise line industry and its trade group, Cruise Lines Industry Association, commonly referred to as CLIA. Mr. Gerson illustrated how cruise ship owners suppress the facts, rather than honestly report them to their passengers. These organizations and individuals alike, boast that its passengers are safer at sea, when this is clearly not the case.
At the senate hearing Mr. Gerson emphasized, how ship security is on board to protect the ship owners, not their passenger customers. Moreover, he pointed out how the legal relationship between the passenger and the cruise line is deliberately written in a way that is difficult to understand. Due to the fact, that the contractual terms which individuals sign are printed in tiny font and using legal and maritime terms that cannot be understood by the average person who takes a cruise, the rights of crime victims on board a cruise are often signed away before they even embark.
The compelling stories of three witnesses who spoke at this hearing demonstrated how difficult it has been for victims to seek or obtain protection before, or assistance after, violent and brutal crimes such as rape and sexual assault occur. Mr. Gerson continued to express deep concern for women and children who are unsafe while at sea. These vulnerable populations in particular are targeted by sexual predators often including crew members hired to work on board the ship. Sometimes, individuals hired as security guards who passengers understandably believe are on board to protect guests are the very ones who are committing these heinous crimes. More importantly, there is absolutely no police protection, on board these floating cities, and so defenseless passengers are left to protect themselves.
Actually, ship authorities have taken steps to cover up these incidents, especially in cases where crimes were committed by cruise line employees. Witnesses’ testimony revealed chilling details about efforts made by the ship authorities to hide evidence such as rape kits and other evidence left behind by quickly cleaning up physical evidence that would point responsibility at them. Witnesses who may have information unfavorable to cruise lines, denials of responsibility, often go without an interview or even documentation of witness status.
The testimony given on behalf of the International Crime Victims Association was made as a plea for Congress to provide cruise ship passengers with new legal protections. Advocates, asked for various requirements to be made of the cruise line industry laws. These billion dollar businesses must be held accountable for protecting passengers and keeping them safe.
Gerson & Schwartz, PA will continue on, in its long commitment to fairly represent maritime crime victims against an industry who places its financial interests before the civil protections that passengers deserve.
If you or a loved one has been injured physically or sexually on board a cruise.
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