Even though tens of thousands of its crew members remain stranded aboard ships, Carnival Corporation announced plans to resume operations as early as August
Senators stress need for cruise industry hearings to ensure safety & health of passengers and crew members ahead of cruise lines resuming operations
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Subcommittee on Security, sent a letter to the Committee’s Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) expressing deep concerns about the Carnival Cruise Line, a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation & PLC, announcement that the company plans to resume operations in August.
Reports indicate that the Carnival Corporation continued sailing its ships even after knowing the risks this would pose to its passengers and crew, resulting in at least 39 deaths and more than 1,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases in connection with its vessels. Nearly 80,000 of the cruise line industry’s crew members remain stranded aboard ships. The cruise line’s negligence has already sparked U.S. House of Representatives and Australian police force investigations.
The Senators urged the Committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the Carnival Corporation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also stressed the need to hold hearings with cruise line industry leaders and public health experts ahead of the cruise industry resuming operations.
“We feel strongly that the Committee has an obligation to launch its own investigation to ensure that Carnival is held responsible for its response during these unprecedented times,” the Senators wrote. “We ask that the Committee’s investigation is broad and comprehensive as the situation continues to evolve. The American traveling public deserve to know the full truth.”
Blumenthal is the lead sponsor of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which he has introduced repeatedly since 2013. The legislation would build on the passenger safety measures signed into law in the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). Among other provisions, the bill would strengthen a number of critical medical standards aboard cruise ships, including ensuring the presence of a physician to treat any passenger in the event of an emergency, the appropriate number of qualified medical staff to treat the number of passengers on board, and that the passengers are aware of the location of the vessel’s medical facilities and the appropriate steps they should follow during a medical emergency.
This bicameral, bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) in the Senate and U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and John Garamendi (D-CA) in the House.
Dear Chairman Wicker:
We write formally requesting that Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (the Committee) exercise its oversight authority of maritime transportation issues to investigate disturbing reports regarding the Carnival Corporation & PLC’s handling of COVID-19 outbreaks aboard its vessels. We have serious concerns about any effort to resume cruise ship operations prematurely – without robust oversight to insure the health and safety of passengers and crew. We feel strongly that the Committee should investigate these troubling reports fully and promptly.
On Monday, Carnival Cruise Lines, a subsidiary cruise line of the Carnival Corporation, announced that it is planning to resume some of its operations as early as August 1, 2020. This move is particularly concerning given the cruise line industry’s problematic track record of managing, containing, and responding to the current pandemic. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted that “[c]ruise ship travel markedly increases the risk and impact of the COVID-19 disease outbreak within the United States” and “there are several features of cruise ships that increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” including high rates of person-to-person contact, close quartering in small cabins, and difficulty decontaminating surfaces.
According to reports, at least 39 deaths and more than 1,500 confirmed COVID-19 infections have been recorded in connection with Carnival’s vessels. As the news surrounding outbreaks of the novel coronavirus surfaced, life aboard Carnival ships like the Grand Princess continued normally, with little effort to respond to the ongoing global pandemic. Moreover, according to experts, “several of the plagued Carnival ships didn’t even begin their voyages until well after the company knew it was risky to do so.” Even now, as cruise ship passengers have returned home, nearly 80,000 crew members remain stranded on about 100 cruise ships in or near U.S. ports. Together, these factors are deeply disturbing – at best sheer incompetence and at worst corporate negligence – and deserve our immediate attention.
The controversy surrounding these reports has sparked investigations by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Australian police force. We feel strongly that the Committee has an obligation to launch its own investigation to ensure that Carnival is held responsible for its response during these unprecedented times. We ask that the Committee’s investigation is broad and comprehensive as the situation continues to evolve. The American traveling public deserve to know the full truth.
We urge the Committee to hold hearings with the leaders of the cruise line industry and public health experts to reassure Americans of the industry’s commitment to implementing robust measures to keep passengers and crew members safe. Now more than ever, the entire industry must focus on real, systemic health and safety reform before setting sail again.
As members of the Subcommittee on Security, we look forward to working with you to address these concerns, and we thank you for your attention to this critically important matter.