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Who is responsible for cruise ship safety?

Several laws have been enacted to help protect the rights of those who work in the maritime industry, yet what about those whose time out on the open water is only temporary? When you embark as a passenger on a ship from Manhattan, you may face many of the same sea-related dangers as those who work on the vessel. Yet are you protected by the same statutes that maritime workers rely on when they are injured at sea, or are you protected by general liability laws? 

Federal legislation like the Jones Act is specifically meant to cover maritime workers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, cruise ship passengers are instead protected by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. This law was enacted in 2010 to provide for stricter policies for dealing with incidents that occur on cruise ships. The law required cruise ship to increase their surveillance capabilities through onboard video cameras and time-sensitive locks and latches. In addition, it mandated that cruise line operators create policies that restrict interactions between passengers and crew. If a criminal incident were to occur onboard a cruise ship, the Federal Bureau of Investigation would have jurisdiction over the case. 

In terms of liability for cruise ship accidents, every ship that sails out of a U.S. port is required to follow the standards set forth by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. These regulations govern issues such as: 

  • Fire safety
  • Vessel control, integrity and stability
  • Navigational safety 
  • Crew competency 
  • Safety management 
  • Environmental protection

The U.S. Coast Guard is tasked with inspecting cruise ship in port to ensure compliance with these regulations. The Coast Guard is also responsible for the safety of cruise ships themselves while on the water. 

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