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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2013

SCHUMER CALLS FOR CRUISE SHIP “BILL OF RIGHTS” – WOULD ENSURE SHIPS, EVEN IF THEY ARE REGISTERED IN FOREIGN COUNTRY, HAVE SANITARY CONDITIONS, BACKUP POWER, MEDICAL STAFF



Bill Of Rights Would Be Modeled On Successful Passenger Bill of Rights For Airplanes – Would Demand Pledge That Ships Have Functioning Backup Generators; Staff Trained In Emergency Procedures; Proper Medical Personnel; The Right For Passengers To Disembark, and More

Schumer Will Push For Voluntary Adoption Among Cruise Liners, And Will Urge State Department To Begin Negotiations With Countries That Host Ships That Serve Americans

Schumer: We Must Bring The Cruise Ship Industry Out Of The Wild West, And Into The Rule Of Law

 

In response to a string of horrifying and dangerous incidents aboard international cruise ships, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled his proposed Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights.   Modeled on the successful airline passenger bill of rights already passed into law, it would provide, at the least, the following guarantees:

 

1.      The right to disembark a docked ship if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided onboard

2.      The right to a full refund for a trip that is abruptly canceled due to mechanical failures

3.      The right to full-time, on board professional medical attention in the event of a major health crisis

4.      The right to real-time information updates as to any adjustments in the travel plan of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency

5.      The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures

6.      The right to backup power in the case of a generator failure

 

Schumer is calling for a two step process, whereby the industry accepts these guidelines voluntarily while at the same time, he is calling on the Secretary of State and the International Maritime Organization to begin an investigation into the problems with the “flagged” countries of cruise ships that serve the United States passengers.  Schumer said the goal of the investigation should be implementing at least these six protections.  Because these ships are flagged in other counties, they are primarily regulated by countries other than the U.S, and existing international standards are clearly not working.

 

“Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the wild west of the travel industry, and it’s time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt,” said Schumer. "This bill of rights, based on work we've done with the airline industry, will ensure that passengers aren't forced to live in third world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation."

 

In recent years, there have been a number of issues aboard a variety of cruise liners. On February 10th 2013, a fire broke out in the engine room of a Carnival Triumph cruise ship resulting in power loss for four days in the Gulf of Mexico.  The ship was carrying 4,200 people and was eventually towed into a port in Alabama. Passengers and crewmembers were said to have slept in hallways and outside. Many also spoke of clogged toilets, inoperable sewage system, long lines for food, shortages of fresh water and widespread odor. Reports have said that the same Carnival Triumph cruise ship had a problem with its propulsion system in January.

 

Most recently, a Carnival Dream cruise ship, carrying 4,363 passengers, encountered a mechanical issue with its diesel generator in St. Maarten this Wednesday. The ship’s elevators and restrooms were disabled for a period of time. Passengers were flown back to Florida. Additionally, a Carnival Legend cruise ship had to cancel a scheduled stop due to technical difficult affecting its sailing speed. A Carnival Elation cruise ship encountered a similar malfunction and had to be escorted by a tugboat last Saturday.

 

In 2010, a Carnival Splendor cruise ship carrying 4,500 people, including crewmembers, also involved a fire breaking out in the engine room. Passengers were left without hot water, telephone service and air-conditioning. The U.S. Coast Guard found deficiencies in the firefighting operations.

 

In 2012, 16 outbreaks on cruise ships were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Most recently, in early March of 2013, over 100 passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship fell ill with a gastrointestinal virus. Over 1,900 passengers were onboard the ship.

 

In February of 2012, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee held a Cruise Safety Hearing related to the safety, security and environmental practices of the cruise ship industry. According to the Senate Commerce Committee, at least 90 serious events have occurred on Carnival cruise ships in the past five years. At the hearing, Dr. Ross Klein, an international authority on the cruise ship industry, testified that onboard crime, crewmember training and the availability of adequate medical care were major problems that need further examination and remedy by the industry.  Dr. Ross Klein’s testimony also found that:

 

•             In a survey of 11 cruise lines, the doctors found that 27 percent of doctors and nurses did not have advanced training in treating victims of heart attacks, the leading killer on ships, and 54 percent of doctors and 72 percent of nurses lacked advanced training for dealing with traumas

•             Fewer than half of shipboard doctors -- 45 percent -- had board certification, an important credential that is granted after three to seven years of residency and a written examination in a specialty, or its equivalent.

•             Ships lacked crucial equipment, such as X-ray machines and external pacemakers -- machines that help restore the heart's natural rhythm.

 

Schumer has long been an advocate for the traveling public and successfully pushed an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights that enumerates certain rights for enplaned persons. Additionally, Schumer successfully pushed a Long Island Railroad Commuter Bill of Rights.

 

Schumer today called on the Cruise Line International Association and the International Maritime Organization to adopt an International Cruise Ship Passenger “Bill of Rights,” in light of recent episodes aboard cruise ships and a pattern of failures aboard cruise ships in the past decade. Schumer pointed to a recent testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee in 2012 that highlighted major issues that need further examination by the industry.

 

A copy of Schumer’s letter can be found below:

 

Ms. Christine Duffy

CEO & President

Cruise Line International Association

Mr. Koji Sekimizu

Secretary-General

International Maritime Organization

 

Dear Ms. Duffy and Mr. Sekimizu:

 

I write to express my desire for an International Cruise Ship Passenger “Bill of Rights” in light of recent episodes aboard Carnival cruise ships and a pattern of failures aboard casualty cruise ships over the past decade.  As you may know, I have long championed the rights of the traveling public and have successfully pushed, along with my colleagues, an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights that enumerates certain rights for enplaned persons.  Though the issues that have confronted thousands of cruise passengers aboard internationally-flagged ships may be different than those experienced by the flying public, the spirit of today’s request is the same: international cruise lines should pledge a written, unbreakable set of rights and values to their customers to insure both the integrity of the industry and the welfare of the passenger.  In addition to this request, I would urge that the International Maritime Organization, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other international partners, conduct an investigation into the compliance and enforcement of existing international standards in flag states and the need for additional measures to protect passengers at sea.

 

The recent events reported aboard the Triumph, the Dreamand the Legend, wherein passengers were subject to horrifying conditions at sea for hours and days and provided little information about Carnival’s plans to remedy the situation, are only the latest signals that serious reform is needed in both the commitment the industry makes to its passengers and a re-examination of the oversight structure and rules governing internationally flagged cruise ships.  The recent reports include raw sewage leaking onto floors and walls, passengers being fed rotten food, and a prohibition against docked passengers from leaving the ship.  Moreover, other issues, particularly those highlighted in recent testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee in 2012, are troublesome.  Dr. Ross Klein, an international authority on the cruise ship industry, testified that onboard crime, crewmember training, and the availability of adequate medical care were major problems that need further examination and remedy by the industry.

 

Therefore, I would suggest you explore the following criteria for a Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights:

 

1.      The right to disembark a docked ship if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided onboard

2.      The right to a full refund for a trip that is abruptly canceled due to mechanical failures

3.      The right to full-time, on board professional medical attention in the event of a major health crisis

4.      The right to real-time information updates as to any adjustments in the travel plan of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency

5.      The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures

6.      The right to backup power in the case of a generator failure

 

These six items might just be a starting point for a comprehensive Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights.  In addition, a full international investigation of the oversight and enforcement operations in the countries where major cruise lines are flagged must commence immediately.  According to the Senate Commerce Committee, at least 90 serious events have occurred on Carnival cruise ships in the past five years.  None of Carnival’s cruise ships have the United States as their primary regulator, despite the fact that Americans provide millions of customers to the company each year.  This investigation should examine the efficacy of existing standards and the potential need for new ones.

 

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

 

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