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January 13, 2014

Cruise Ship Safety and Security Improving Two Years After Costa Concordia Tragedy

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on cruise ship safety and security and the reporting of crime on these vessels. The report, requested by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), is released on the two year anniversary of the grounding of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which resulted in 32 deaths. The safety and security of cruise vessels has become a chief concern for the public and policymakers due to the apparent negligence from this incident and the recent increase of those traveling on these ships. Currently, over 16 million passengers travel aboard cruise ships each year – with almost 11 million traveling from U.S. ports.

In the report entitled "Cruise Vessels: Most Required Security and Safety Measure Have Been Implemented, but Concerns Remain About Crime Reporting," the GAO found:

  • 11 of the 15 provisions from the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act have been implemented. The remaining provisions include technology requirements for overboard detection, video surveillance, and communications interoperability.
  • The reporting of sexual and physical assaults, the leading crimes on cruise vessels, is now required by law but is limited and not always useful to the public. Crimes are underreported if investigations are not started and there are often significant delays in the public reporting of them. Similarly, website data available to the public lacks proper context, such as the city's crime rate.
  • Currently, legislation is pending to improve the reporting of crime and some cruise lines have begun to voluntarily post improved data, such as including alleged crimes, on their own websites.
  • Cruise Lines International Association, which represents almost every cruise line in the U.S., identified 10 safety-related policies in 2012 that were adopted by all member cruise lines by July 2013.
  • Effective January 2015, passengers must participate in a safety and evacuation exercise prior to or immediately upon departure-rather than within the customary 24 hours of departure. Most cruise lines adopted this policy change voluntarily in 2013.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard has worked with the cruise industry for several years to plan and hold disaster exercises, including one in April 2013 to practice a mass rescue from a cruise vessel.

Congressman Thompson released the following statement on the report: "I am pleased that the Cruise industry has taken notice and is well on its way to implementing needed changes to safety and security policies of cruise vessels. It is crucial that we push harder to enact final safety regulations mandated by law. Implementing improved video surveillance, man overboard detection, and interoperable communications equipment will further improve the security of these ships which millions travel on each year."

Congresswoman Matsui added the following statement: "While the GAO report released today shows that good progress has been made in implementing the safety and security measures required in legislation I authored, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), there is still more work to be done. The report clearly highlights that further efforts are necessary to strengthen the crime reporting requirements under the law. That is why I have introduced H.R. 2800, the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that will build on the CVSSA to ensure passengers have access to accurate, timely, and transparent cruise ship crime data figures. If passed, this legislation will implement technical changes to address the crime reporting and video surveillance concerns laid out in the GAO report, and continue our commitment to cruise passenger safety."


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Media Contact:
(Thompson) Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978
(Matsui) Jonelle Trimmer at (202) 225-7163