Markey, Blumenthal, Rockefeller Call On Coast Guard To Make Cruise Ship Inspection Information Available To Public

 
BLUMENTHAL, ROCKEFELLER, MARKEY CALL ON COAST GUARD TO MAKE CRUISE SHIP INSPECTION INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO PUBLIC  
 
Senators Also Call On Coast Guard To Detail How Inspection Information Will Be Used To Hold Cruise Ships With Safety Problems Accountable
 
 
(Washington, DC) – In a letter to U.S. Coast Guard Admirable Robert Papp, Jr., U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) called on the Coast Guard to detail how it plans to use inspection information to hold cruise ships with safety problems accountable. The senators also requested that such information be made available to the public over the Internet. The letter comes on the heels of the Coast Guard’s recent decision to conduct unannounced inspections of cruise ships that have exhibited a history of safety problems. 
 
“We commend the Coast Guard’s commitment to strengthening the integrity of the inspection system – a crucial safeguard for the more than 22 million people projected to take a cruise this year, and write requesting information on how the Coast Guard intends to use the results of such inspections to hold cruise ships accountable for passenger and crew safety,” the senators wrote. “In addition, we respectfully request that the records and results of the unannounced inspections be made public and easily available over the Internet for prospective cruise passengers to peruse before booking a trip.”
 
The senators added, “We agree it is strategic of the Coast Guard to target ships and vessels that have a pattern or history of safety problems, but we further expect that consumers should also be privy to the insights and patterns that the Coast Guard already knows, in addition to the ones it discovers in the future. Furthermore, the Coast Guard does a disservice to the public when it shields from consumers the identity of cruise ships and lines that have a pattern of noncompliance.” 
 
Full text of the letter is attached and below:
 
May 9, 2014
 
Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.
Commandant of the Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
2701 Martin Luther King Jr Avenue Southeast
Washington, DC 20032
 
Dear Admiral Papp:
 
As you know, the United States Coast Guard recently announced, through a Marine Safety Information Bulletin, that it will conduct unannounced inspections of cruise ships that have exhibited patterns of safety problems. We commend the Coast Guard’s commitment to strengthening the integrity of the inspection system—a crucial safeguard for the more than 22 million people projected to take a cruise this year, and write requesting information on how the Coast Guard intends to use the results of such inspections to hold cruise ships accountable for passenger and crew safety. In addition, we respectfully request that the records and results of the unannounced inspections be made public and easily available over the Internet for prospective cruise passengers to peruse before booking a trip.
 
A number of unfortunate incidents, which have occurred onboard of cruise vessels in recent years, have raised serious questions regarding the safety of cruises and the type of oversight that currently exists. At a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) forum on cruise ship safety, the Coast Guard explained that certain cruise lines demonstrate a history of above average deficiencies in regular examinations and that these vessels should be the target of unannounced spot checks. We agree it is strategic of the Coast Guard to target ships and vessels that have a pattern or history of safety problems, but we further expect that consumers should also be privy to the insights and patterns that the Coast Guard already knows, in addition to the ones it discovers in the future. Furthermore, the Coast Guard does a disservice to the public when it shields from consumers the identity of cruise ships and lines that have a pattern of noncompliance. 
 
We believe that exposure of deficiencies will provide an added level of protection for the safety of cruise passengers. During NTSB’s forum, some participants expressed concern that the current agencies and organizations directed to oversee the safety of cruise vessels lack enforcement powers, and that passengers are too reliant on the cruise industry to police itself and abide by standards. By making this inspection information public and easily accessible by all, the Coast Guard empowers passenger to make more informed decisions.  
 
As sponsors of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, we look forward to continuing to work with you and other relevant oversight agencies to ensure that standards and enforcement powers are strengthened for the protection of cruise passengers and crew. Thank you for your attention to this matter.  
 
Sincerely,
 
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL                          
United States Senate
 
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV
United States Senate 
 
EDWARD J. MARKEY                                  
United States Senate 
 
 
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