Writing the Book on Cruise Safety — Literally
Passenger safety on cruise vessels is a major topic these days. The Coronavirus put a spotlight on how foreign-flagged cruise vessels protect passengers on their liners– or as we’ve seen since January– have not. We sat down with Los Angeles personal injury attorney and cruise ship legislation lobbyist Michael Ehline to discuss his role in major legislation on the topic.
Ehline, along with several other lawyers and victims, was key in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. This was the landmark legislation that ensured passenger safety on cruise vessels. As a skilled attorney with ample experience on cruise ship issues and injuries, Michael jumped at the chance.
President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law in 2010.
Protecting Cruise Passengers after Abuses
However, this was not before Michael worked with the International Cruise Victims Association or ICV. The ICV pushed for Congressional hearings in 2005 and 2006. Ehline worked with the late Ken Carver on key provisions of the act, which included protection for cruise passengers. The situation was dark before the two worked together. In 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that during a 32 month period, there were 250 sexual assault incidents on Royal Caribbean lines alone. Furthermore, during Congressional testimony, it emerged that crew members perpetrated many of these assaults. Furthermore, the FBI reported that almost 40% of all such assaults were due to the employees of the cruise vessels. The act was co-sponsored by both Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and California Representative Doris Matsui.
The measures are both sweeping and common sense. It required cruise ships installing 42-inch high guard rails. And the bill mandated Man Overboard (MOB) Systems, to stop and circle the vessel around the fall area when someone goes off the ship into the waters. It also reported that the cruise liners report all serious crimes to the FBI or law enforcement. The liners also must post the crime data on their website.
The legislation became a model not only for transport in the United States but for other nations as well.
A Central Role
In the middle of many of the key elements was Michael Ehline.
“Working with Ken was quite the experience,” Ehline told us. “He was a wealth of knowledge and always fighting for the little guy. There were so many cases of cruise ship lines looking the other way.”
Ehline added that the reporting requirements in the Act were intended to cause a reduction of serious issues on cruise ships. While the issues are not completely solved, the work of ten years ago “made a major difference.”
“It’s something I can point to and know that I played a role in making our seas safer,” he said.
Ehline is available to assist both individuals and associations in handling the topic of cruise ship safety.
“There’s still more work left to be done,” he said.
The attorney hopes that in the aftermath of the Corona crisis, Congress considers new legislation aimed at protecting passengers, especially in terms of disease.
“There’s now a precedent a mile long,” he said.