U.S. Senate Committee Conducts Hearing on Cruise Ship Safety

As this blog has recently discussed, the cruise ship industry suffered several big blows over the last year from the May evacuation of Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, due to an onboard fire, the grounding of Carnival ship Costa Concordia last January, a fire at on Carnival’s Triumph ship in February of this year, and mechanical issues with the Carnival Dream in March.

The increasing frequency of such incidents prompted the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, led by Senator Jay Rockefeller, to conduct a hearing last week to address a perceived lack of safety in the cruise ship industry. The hearing dubbed, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection” revealed several shocking facts about the cruise industry which raise serious concerns regarding the safety of cruising.

In March of last year, Senator Rockefeller held a hearing in an attempt to gather information from cruise industry officials regarding the reality of the safety of cruising. During the hearing, Christine Duffy, an official with the Global Trade Association, claimed that cruise industry authorities were moving to improve safety within the industry.

At least week’s hearing, Senator Rockefeller pointed to the rash of incidents occurring since the March hearing as demonstrative of the cruise industry’s failure to improve safety on its ships. Senator Rockefeller expressed a concern that, although serious incidents are reported, less serious occurrences such as onboard fires and mechanical failures are not. In an attempt to improve passenger safety, Senator Rockefeller has introduced legislation entitled the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, designed to close “gaps” in cruise industry consumer protection by broadening the federal government’s role in cruise industry oversight.

Some of the Act’s provisions would:

Make the CLIA Bill of Rights legally enforceable by passengers in court.
Require the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) to maintain a hotline and website where consumers can submit complaints about cruise lines.
Authorize the DOT to investigate consumer complaints regarding cancellations, delays, lost or damaged baggage, poor onboard ship conditions, and deceptive advertising.

Authorize the DOT to impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation or up to $50,000 for repeat violations of established regulations.
Despite enhanced safety measures and new policies designed to ensure passenger safety, cruising can be a risky activity. Cruise ship accidents are becoming more and more common, rendering the rendering the need for experienced legal counsel for those injured in such accidents increasingly important. As this blog has mentioned before, because cruise ship accidents are subject to different laws and much shorter statutes of limitations, sometimes as short as one year, they are best handled by experienced cruise ship accident attorneys.

The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and has been representing the victims of cruise ship accident for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident, contact the attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today.

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