Bar Raised on Ship Safety8 September 2010
One of the cruise lines' priorities is to ensure the safety of its assengers and crew. In July 2010, President Barack Obama signed a landmark cruise safety bill The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which will require cruise lines to immediately report serious crimes to US law enforcement authorities. Gary Bald of Royal Caribbean Cruises and Terry Dale of the Cruise Lines International Association explain how companies are welcoming the changes.
Gary Bald, senior vice-president, safety, security, environment and medical / public health, Royal Caribbean Cruises:
Royal Caribbean's highest priority is to ensure the safety and security of all its guests and crew members. Although our security procedures are sensitive and cannot, for obvious reasons, be discussed in detail, our guests should be very comfortable with the security measures they see during their cruise vacation. These include the screening of 100% of all luggage, carry-ons and provisions coming onto our ships. This screening is done with X-ray machines, metal detectors, human searches, sniffer dogs and other methods.
Additionally, Royal Caribbean has closed-circuit television cameras located in hundreds of strategic, public locations throughout the ship but not in private staterooms, public restrooms or spas. These systems are upgraded as new and beneficial technologies are developed. Recordings from these cameras are routinely used by our security teams and made available to investigative authorities as requested.
Crime and crew
When an alleged crime is reported, the allegation is then reported to appropriate law enforcement agencies as required by law, regulation and policy. Security personnel follow established procedures that include detaining suspects and, if appropriate, securing a crime scene.
Our security staff have all received training on crime scene preservation from FBI Agents and an FBI-training DVD, developed specifically for the cruise industry. If an alleged crime is sexual in nature, medical professionals onboard have sexual assault evidence collection kits and are trained in their proper use. Additionally, a dedicated member of our Care Team will be engaged to assist the victim.
All crew undergo pre-employment background screening. In addition, the US State Department oversees the issuance of seamen's visas to foreign nationals who sail with ships into US ports. Therefore the US embassy in the crew member's country of origin conducts background checks in connection with the issuance of seamen's visas.
Subsequent to employment, crew members' names are included in ship manifests provided to the US Customs and Border Protection agency prior to each departure and re-entry into the US. As designed, this manifest is checked against various government databases. Some other countries require similar manifest reports and conduct similar checks. These recurring government database checks are unusual in the business world and aid in ensuring our crew members uphold our highest standards of personal fitness for duty.
Every ship has a security officer, who is a highly trained military veteran or career security specialist. Security officers receive a variety of specialised training. They are certified by the Security Industrial Authority of the United Kingdom and are directly trained by specialists such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are also guided by procedures developed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Our security personnel onboard are dedicated professionals who follow established procedures that include detaining suspects and, if appropriate, securing a crime scene. It is every crew members' responsibility to protect the safety and security of the guests and other crew members.
Guests are at no greater risk from crime on a cruise ship than they are anywhere they may decide to travel. Guests should use their common sense onboard cruise ships, just like they would anywhere in the world they are living or travelling. Guests should drink responsibly and adhere to the rules published in our Guest Conduct Policy.
Any suspicious activity onboard should be immediately reported to security or any other crew member.
If a guest is the victim of a crime onboard, however rare or unlikely, we recommend that the guest report the incident while they are still onboard so the evidence may be preserved and timely notifications to law enforcement can be made.
This will significantly increase the likelihood of a successful investigation and prosecution of a crime by the appropriate authorities.
We continually review and update our policies, allowing us to learn from past experiences and still keep our guests' safety and security top of mind. We are dedicated to not only making ongoing enhancements to how we respond to allegations, but also on steps to take to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place.
Terry Dale, president and CEO, Cruise Lines International Association:
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) fully supports the law and worked closely with lawmakers in Congress on the legislation, sponsored by senator John Kerry and representative Doris Matsui.
The Cruise Lines International Association supports the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act signed by the President as we share Congress' efforts to ensure that cruising remains safe. The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA's number one priority.
Although millions of guests each year enjoy a safe cruise vacation, we welcome the opportunity to ensure consistency across our member line fleets.
For example, while many ships in the CLIA fleet may already feature 42in railings, peepholes in all cabins, onboard video surveillance systems, and employ medical personnel who meet guidelines established by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the new law will make these and other new provisions consistent across the fleet.
We appreciate the work Congress and the Administration have done to bring consistency and clarity to the security and safety laws and regulations for our industry.
We look forward to continuing our longstanding work with the US Coast Guard, FBI, and law enforcement both here and around the world to ensure the bill's provisions are implemented appropriately.
The cruise industry is committed to providing guests and crew with a safe environment. CLIA members maintain a rigorous set of policies and procedures designed both to prevent onboard incidents and to ensure an immediate and effective response when such incidents occur. This includes meeting a previous federal requirement to report to the FBI allegations of serious crimes occurring in US waters or on a vessel operating to and from a US port.