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Cruise ship security bill sails on in the House

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has reviewed H.R. 3360, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009, issued a favorable report on the proposed legislation on November 7, and recommended that the bill be passed.

The bill would impose new security and safety requirements on cruise ships that carry at least 250 passengers, and would apply to vessels that sail under U.S. or foreign flags, and whether they were in U.S. or international waters when an alleged crime occurs.

'Under current regulations, cruise ships have not been required to report crimes to U.S. authorities that occur outside U.S. territorial waters under any circumstances (even if U.S. nationals are involved),' said House Report 111-332. The legislation is designed to strengthen the role of the U.S. legal system on crimes that occur on a cruise ship, anywhere in the world, if they involve U.S. passengers, U.S.-flag vessels, U.S.-owned ships, or foreign cruise ships traveling in U.S. waters.

H.R. 336 requires that beginning 18 months after enactment, vessels must comply with a host of design and construction standards, including rails that must stand higher than 42 inches above the cabin deck (to prevent passengers from falling overboard), peep holes or other means of visual identification to enable passengers in cabins to see their visitors, acoustic hailing or warning devices to be used in high risk waters, security latches on state rooms or other time-sensitive key technologies, anti-retroviral medications to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases after a sexual assault, and more.

The legislation was introduced in the House last July by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA). A similar measure was introduced in the Senate last March by Senator John Kerry (D-MA).

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it would cost about $5 million over the period 2010 to 2014 to implement the measures called for in H.R. 3360.