Congress Taking Another Swing At Crime On Cruise Ships

Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Doris Matsui have introduced another bill to tighten up security on cruise ships and to require cruise lines to report crimes to U.S. authorities.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009 is similar to a bill they introduced last year, reports Gene Sloan at USA Today’s Cruise Log.

It makes sense to make cruise lines more accountable when passengers become victims of crime at sea. In addition to tightening up record keeping and crime reporting procedures, the bill would require cruise ships to carry rape kits, to provide peep holes in cabin doors and to control the access of staff members to passenger cabins.

What troubles me about the bill is a requirement to raise railings on board ships to a height of 54 inches. The rationale seems to be that people have been falling overboard, but as I keep pointing out, that doesn’t happen unless those people climb on the rails.

So, why not raise the rails, just in case, for the sake of safety? Anyone who has ever leaned, arms folded, on a cruise ship railing to look at the moon can attest that it would be a whole lot less romantic to have that railing at chin height.  

And the reality is, in most cases where people go overboard from cruise ships, it’s because they jump. And at 54 inches, most people would still be able to climb over the railings.

The bill is vexing in one other regard. The text implies that disappearances from cruise ships involving foul play are common.

They are actually quite rare. An examination of the available data on cruise ship disappearance shows only a handful that are completely unexplained and might have involved violence. Most have been suicides and a few may have been accidents that involved drunk or foolish people climbing over railings.

That doesn’t mean steps shouldn’t be taken to deal aggressively with those few disappearances that may have been crimes and with more common non-fatal crimes, including assaults and rapes. That’s why I favor the bill, generally.

But, please, let’s not mess with the railings. They’re not the problem


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