7:06 PM EDT

Elijah Cummings, D-MD 7th

Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and to include extraneous material on H. Con. Res. 289.

7:06 PM EDT

Elijah Cummings, D-MD 7th

Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge the passage of the Senate amendments to H.R. 3360, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. The House passed H.R. 3360 on November 17 by a vote of 416-4. On June 10, 2010, the Senate passed this legislation with an amendment which is now before us for consideration today.

I applaud my distinguished colleague, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, the author of H.R. 3360, for her hard work on this legislation and for her tireless work on behalf of her constituent, Ms. Laurie Dishman, and of all victims of crimes on cruise ships.

As chairman of the Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, I've convened two hearings to examine the issue of crime on cruise ships. I applaud Ms. Dishman and so many other victims and family members of victims for testifying before my subcommittee and for their long effort to support the development of legislation that would help ensure no one else is a victim of a crime on a cruise ship.

Almost all of the nearly 200 cruise vessels embarking and disembarking passengers in the U.S. are registered in foreign countries. As a result, when Americans step onto a cruise vessel, they are stepping onto what becomes a floating piece of another country's jurisdiction as soon as it leaves U.S. waters.

All available statistics indicate that crime is rare on cruise vessels, but it does happen. Therefore, H.R. 3360 seeks to improve the safety of passengers on cruise vessels by requiring commonsense measures to help prevent criminal activity and to ensure cruise lines respond appropriately when a crime occurs, including, by providing proper care for crime victims and securing crime scenes.

I believe that H.R. 3360 responds directly to the problems we examined in our hearings by requiring reasonable alterations in vessel design, equipment, and construction standards to increase the physical safety and security of passengers.

For example, H.R. 3360 requires that cruise vessels install peepholes or similar features in cabin doors so that passengers can identify who is at their door without having to open the door.

H.R. 3360 also requires that cruise vessels have railings that are at least 42 inches high to help prevent passengers from falling overboard. This legislation also requires that cruise ships have onboard trained medical personnel who can provide treatment to assault victims, collect evidence to support prosecutions, and administer antiretroviral medications. This legislation also requires that a store of such medications be maintained on cruise vessels.

And at this point, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to give credit to my colleague on our subcommittee and committee, Congresswoman Corrine Brown of Florida, who fought very hard to make sure that folks who may have been victims of rape had the appropriate personnel to address their concerns, as did Ms. Matsui. These provisions are critical to ensuring that those who are victims of sexual assault have immediate access to state-of-the-art medical care.

H.R. 3360 also specifies certain crimes that must be reported to U.S. authorities by any vessel calling on a U.S. port, and it requires the government to maintain an Internet site that provides a numerical accounting of the reported crimes. Such statistics will be aggregated by individual cruise lines, and cruise lines will be required to maintain a link to the site on their own Web pages.

The Senate amendment made several changes to the legislation passed by the House. Some of these changes enhance the legislation, including the addition of a provision requiring cruise ships to inform passengers of jurisdictional authority applicable to crimes occurring in United States territorial waters, on the high seas, and in the countries visited by the vessel.

That said, the Senate amendment also eliminates a number of reports unrelated to crime on cruise ships that have been required by other pieces of legislation to be submitted to the Congress by the Coast Guard, including a report on foreign-flagged vessels calling on U.S. ports and a report on Coast Guard staffing levels in search and rescue centers.

I understand that the elimination of these reports was demanded by a few Senators, ostensibly to offset the costs of implementing safety and security reforms on cruise vessels. I do not believe that measures that improve safety and security, and particularly not measures such as H.R. 3360, which imposes almost all new requirements on the cruise lines themselves, should require offsets, and particularly not offsets such as these.

That said, enactment of H.R. 3360 will make cruising safer for the millions of Americans who travel on cruise vessels each year, and I urge all of the Members of the House to join in passing the Senate amendments to H.R. 3360.

I also take this moment to thank my ranking member, Mr. LoBiondo, for our bipartisan efforts in seeing that this legislation got to the floor and is passed.

I again commend Congresswoman Matsui for her dedication to this cause and for her extraordinary work on H.R. 3360.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

[Time: 19:15]

7:13 PM EDT

Frank A. LoBiondo, R-NJ 2nd

Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the House is considering the Senate amendments to H.R. 3360, the Cruise Ship Security and Safety Act of 2010. I supported passage of the original bill and intend to support this final version because, on the whole, the bill is a significant improvement over legislation that was considered by the House in the 110th Congress.

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has closely examined the factors that are impacting the safety and security of American citizens aboard cruise ships that operate in and out of United States ports. H.R. 3360 makes commonsense improvements which will enhance safeguards for passengers during the cruise. While no level of procedural or structural modification can prevent all incidents from occurring, I believe this bill will significantly enhance the capabilities of both passengers

and cruise lines in the future.

The bill will also codify an agreement between the FBI and cruise ship [Page: H5266]

lines which will require cruise operators to immediately notify Federal law enforcement agencies of major incidents that occur aboard a vessel.

I am concerned by one change that was included in the Senate bill to expand criminal liability to apply to a wide range of actions under the bill. This goes far beyond what was agreed to in the original House bill, and I believe we should review the impacts of this language at some point in the future.

That being said, the bill will provide additional protections to U.S. passengers, and I ask all Members to join me in supporting the bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

7:15 PM EDT

Doris O. Matsui, D-CA 5th

Ms. MATSUI. I thank the gentleman from Maryland for yielding me time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Senate amendments to H.R. 3360, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, legislation that I introduced and which passed the House by a strong bipartisan vote of 416-4 in November of last year. The bill received similar support in the Senate, which passed it with unanimous consent earlier this month.

The Senate amendments to this legislation are also bipartisan in nature, and I urge my colleagues to support the bill before us that would send critical consumer protection language to the President for his consideration. For far too long American families have unknowingly been at risk when embarking on cruise vacations.

Four years ago, one of my constituents, Laurie Dishman, wrote to me for help. Laurie was the victim of a sexual assault while on a cruise vacation. She was given no assistance by the cruise line in properly securing evidence of the assault, no assistance in identifying her attacker, no assistance in prosecuting the crime once back on shore. Devastated, Laurie reached out to me, and I immediately worked with Chairman Cummings, who committed to me to hold hearings on this issue and began

to work on this critical legislation.

These hearings made apparent the gross inadequacies of current cruise safety provisions. And with ongoing news coverage of rapes on cruise ships, it is clear that this legislation is both urgent and necessary. My legislation establishes stringent new standards to ensure the safety and security of passengers on cruise vessels. Its reforms include requiring that vessel personnel be able to preserve evidence of crimes committed on these vessels, and provide appropriate medical treatment to the victims

of sexual assaults.

Security, safety, and accountability must all be strengthened to hold criminals accountable and end the cycle of serious, dangerous crimes aboard cruise ships.

I would like to thank both Chairmen, Cummings and Oberstar for the good work their committees and staffs have done on this bill and for their tremendous support in making this bill a reality. I would also like to thank my colleagues on the other side of the aisle for their support. This has been a long, difficult road for all cruise victims and their families. And believe me, this legislation is truly a result of their courage, their dedication, and their conviction to preventing

further crimes from happening.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation and pave the way for safety of all cruise passengers.

7:19 PM EDT

Ted Poe, R-TX 2nd

Mr. POE of Texas. I appreciate the gentleman for yielding.

I rise totally in support of H.R. 3360, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. This legislation passed the House with strong support in November of last year, and I am pleased to see it return from the other body as an improved bill ready for final passage. I commend my colleague, Ms. Matsui of California, who has been relentless as an advocate for protection of the cruise line passengers.

Mr. Speaker, every year cruise line companies carry over 10 million Americans to and from American ports. The cruise lines promise Americans safety, security, fun, and relaxation aboard the ships. But as we have seen, safety is not something the cruise lines are always prepared to guarantee.

According to the FBI, sexual assault is the leading crime reported and investigated by the agency among crimes that occur on the high seas. In fact, in a 2005 hearing before the Committee on Government Reform, Chris Swecker, assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI, noted that, ``Sexual assaults are the dominant threat to women and minors on the high seas, with the majority of these incidences occurring on cruise ships.'' His statements are backed up by the disturbing

frequency of assaults onboard these ships. During one 6-month period in 2007, the cruise lines reported 41 separate instances of sexual assault to the FBI, 19 of which were categorized as rape.

There are troubling patterns to these assaults. In 2007, a Los Angeles Times report revealed that over a 32-month period, Royal Caribbean reported over 250 incidents of sexual assault, battery, and harassment. But the most startling fact about these cases: Almost 40 percent of these crimes were committed by cruise company employees. In fact, Ms. Matsui's constituent, Laurie Dishman, was sexually assaulted by a cruise ship security guard.

Laurie Dishman knew what to do, which was call her Member of Congress. And when Ms. Matsui found out about this situation, she did what she needed to do and worked relentlessly with both sides of the body here to make sure that this legislation came to a vote and now final passage.

Mr. Speaker, the frequency of these cases and the overwhelming statistics should not be tolerated. If U.S.-based cruise ship companies who own and operate foreign-flagged passenger vessels want to access millions of Americans who travel on these ships, they should be required to implement simple, proper safety and security improvements for all travelers.

As the cochair and founder of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, I am proud to support H.R. 3360. This bill will implement necessary safety measures onboard cruise ships, including video surveillance and proper documentation of complaints by passengers. Most importantly, the law mandates that cruise ship personnel contact both the FBI and the Coast Guard as soon as serious crimes like homicide, kidnapping, and assault are reported by the passengers.

This strong legislation will protect the safety of millions of Americans and hold law violators accountable for sexual assault on the high seas. No longer will criminals be able to hide on our oceans when they commit crimes against Americans. So I urge my colleagues to support this bill.