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Rockefeller hails federal web page as 'one-stop resource' on cruise consumer protection

Senate Commerce Committee
Sen. Jay Rockefeller
Sen. Jay Rockefeller praised the US Department of Transportation's creation of a web page that he said 'for the first time will give consumers a reliable one-stop resource where they can find information on important consumer protection issues related to cruise vacations.'

The page explains the roles of the Federal Maritime Commission (consumer assistance), the US Coast Guard (vessel safety) and FBI (crime) and provides links to their websites.

Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, praised DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx for taking what he called an 'important and extraordinary step' to help protect passengers on cruise ships.

'Passengers desperately need access to accurate and updated information, which is why Secretary Foxx’s leadership on this issue is a game-changer,' Rockefeller said, adding that cruise lines have 'disappointingly filed to act' in response to the senator's calls for strengthened consumer protections and disclosures.

A Cruise Lines International Association spokeswoman said CLIA hadn't been informed about the site. She did not address the senator's assertion that the cruise industry is not responsive.

'It is far past time that we step up to help American citizens when something goes wrong on a cruise ship, and I commend the Department of Transportation for this first step toward providing consumer protections for passengers,' Rockefeller said.

The single page on the DOT site explains that the Federal Maritime Commission requires operators of cruises sailing from the US to be financially capable of reimbursing their customers if a cruise is canceled along with proof of ability to pay claims arising from passenger death or injury for which the operator may be liable.

The page explains USCG is responsible for the safety of cruise ships calling at US ports, outlines the inspection regime and tells how the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 prescribes security and safety requirements for most cruise ships that embark and disembark in the US.

The act mandates that reports of criminal activity go to the FBI, while USCG is responsible for posting cruise line incident reporting statistics. The DOT page provides the link to those statistics (which are also voluntarily reported on cruise operators' own websites).

During a cruise ship safety hearing in July 2013, Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which he said would close gaps in consumer awareness and crime reporting by measures that include giving consumers clearer summaries of their rights and limitations while aboard cruise ships and giving DOT greater authority to protect consumers and investigate complaints.

The Commerce Committee held a second hearing on cruise ship safety in July this year.

S. 1340 remains in committee.