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Interview With Ken Carver

New cruise law about to set sail

eTN Staff Writer  Jul 31, 2009

The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act has been opposed by the cruise industry for years, but after the valiant efforts of Senator John Kerry and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, the International Cruise Line Association has finally seen the light and agreed to support this initiative. The law is a great start in providing some much-needed safety and security provisions to protect passengers, but this is only one small step in taming the wild, wild seas. Ken Carver, president of the International Cruise Victims Association, sits down with executive producer and host of TravelTalkRADIO (eTN partner), Sandy Dhuyvetter to explain why.

Sandy Dhuyvetter: We are very pleased to be with you today, and we are also very pleased to bring you the updates on what’s going in the legislation in congress, and I mean the Senate and House of Representatives in Washington, DC, about the Cruise Line Safety and Security Act that is going on now. We have with us the president of the International Cruise Victims Association, Kendall Carver. I call you “Ken,” but your real name is Kendall, isn’t it, Ken?

Ken Carver: (Laughs.) That’s right, Sandy, but I'll go by either one.

Sandy: Alright, alright. Well, if you do a search for Ken or Kendall Carver on Google, you’re going to find a lot of information. He has been spectacular in really spearheading this whole new association that we have with the cruise lines, and that is really one of really wanting them to be responsible. And you’ve done a beautiful job, Ken. You are so active. You’ve been on so many news reports and radio shows. It’s just been tremendous the visibility you are getting.

Carver: Well, I’ll tell you, Sandy, that is what’s made the difference for us - is that the press, since we started International Cruise Victims three years ago, has picked up on our stories and we continue to get amazing press. In fact, I just looked at our website this morning at, and I looked under ICV News, and we’ve gotten something daily for every day this month. And that’s been in the LA Times, major news shows, just daily press, and that’s made the difference. And you participated in that because we got in to shows that we wouldn't [have] if people hadn't heard our interview on your show, Sandy.

Sandy: Well, thank you, Ken, Well, you and I and I have talked much about this. I mean, we have a lot of conversations during our weeks, but it’s really the right thing to do, and that’s why we are so excited to know that you’ve got such great support, not only from John Kerry, but Doris Matsui in California – and, of course, John Kerry is in Massachusetts. Those folks have really helped, too, haven’t they?

Carver: Absolutely. I mean, we needed leadership in both the House and the Senate. And I’ll just go to the Senate for a minute and how John Kerry got involved. My daughter lived in Cambridge. So I just walked into his office, a cold call, a couple of years ago in Washington and met the receptionist. And there was nobody there to talk to me. And a week later somebody called and said, “What’s this all about?” And I told them and they researched it and came back in a month and said, "We’re going to take this on, and we are going to pass legislation." And what’s unique about that, is I'm also working with the staff in the Senate who helped John craft the bill for the Senate, and they said, "Two people are willing to take it on." And John Kerry stepped to the plate and took this issue on, and I tell you we will always be indebted. And then in the House, we originally started with Christopher Shays, who really gets a lot of credit for originally picking up from the story. But then, the Republicans lost power, and he was defeated. And then, Doris Matsui, a couple of years ago, because of a victim in California, really stepped to the plate on this issue. So, that brought us what we needed in the House and what we needed in the Senate, and it’s been phenomenal. I might just mention in the Senate, I just checked on it in the last couple of days, Kerry took this on by himself with no co-sponsors. And right now, added to his list since the Senate subcommittee passed the preliminary bill by 100, everybody voted for it - Senator Lautenberg has signed on, who is Chairman of that subcommittee; Senator Nelson from Florida, which is most unusual; Lieberman from Connecticut; and Rockefeller, who is overall chairmen of the Transportation Committee in the Senate. So, you couldn’t ask for five better senators to join on with John Kerry in sponsoring this legislation.

Sandy: This is beautiful and, of course, we got the news, I think it was a week or two ago, that CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association, has also recommended that this legislation be passed, which is historic, isn’t it?

Carver: It is historic. I mean, they have taken the position and spent millions of dollars not to have any legislation. But, through the skill of John Kerry who negotiated a tough deal with them, they produced a letter two days before the Senate subcommittee supporting the legislation. I would say probably something they didn’t want to do, but they were given some alternatives and they said, "Maybe we better sign on."

Sandy: Yeah well, you know, I would imagine they’ve also had many people in there saying that it is the right thing to do. You know, let’s talk a little bit about it, I mean the actual legislation, and let’s talk a little bit about, once it’s passed, are we done or do we still have more work to do?

Carver: Sandy, the legislation, you can go to our website and get information on it, and it still is not law. I mean, we’ve got to do the process, which is going forward in the Senate, and then we are working on doing it on the House. But with that letter from CLIA, we are most optimistic because nobody is going to, in theory, oppose the law. But, the law will require structural changes to ships to make them safer like peepholes in a door, and that’s no big deal, but that’s not been a requirement, and other structural changes. Then, the whole idea of making crime data - a transparency to it. You cannot determine what crimes occurred on a ship. And that will now be required, and it’ll be posted on the Internet, and that is a significant break through. And we are not through everything yet, but those items ... as much as they have to do to treat raped women. I just got a call yesterday from a woman, a hysterical woman, and I believe she was in Alabama, who had just been sexually molested by a crew member, and was getting nothing but the runaround. She was panicked, and she found our website and we talked to her, gave her some advice of how to proceed. And there was a sigh of relief on her part, because she was on her own, and the cruise lines appeared to be doing what they have always done. They say, “Well, we’ll give you a half of a free ticket for another cruise line.” That’s not what the woman needed. And the cruise line bill will require that the woman be given an 800 number to a sexual hotline for real professional advice, the doctor will have to be trained, and any information she discusses with her doctor will have to be confidential. He can’t pass it on to the cruise line. Plus, anybody in the cruise line that she discusses this with, that has to become private information.

Sandy: You know, I wanted to touch a little bit about the legislation. Let’s say and let’s hope that it does pass, and certainly we have good feelings about it passing finally after 6 years. But, after this does pass, is the work done, is there more work to do? What is it that we can look forward to?

Carver: Well, there’s two sides that are going to require a lot of work. And that is, now that the cruise lines are forced to report the crimes to the FBI, is that the FBI take action. And unfortunately, Sandy, that has not been the pattern in the past. They have stated that they don’t have the resources - a woman is raped - they really don’t have the resources to deal with these claims, and that’s resulted in very few cases being opened and very few convictions. But I think as the transparency comes to all of these crimes, the next question is going to go to the FBI: “What are you doing about it? How are you dealing with these crimes?” I mean, it’d be like having a police force that doesn’t enforce the laws. So, that is going to require, really, a watchful eye, and we will have the data to see how that is actually working. Ideally, Sandy, I’d like independent policemen on the ship, like a sky martial, but we are not there yet. And that’ll be the next step. But one other thing that was pulled out of the bill that we are going back and addressing on a legislative matter, is a portion called the Death on the High Seas Act. And what that says [is], if a cruise ship is at fault and you die, in effect, they have no responsibility. If you are an older person, they say your life has no economic value. If you are a younger person, they say your life has no economic value. And no action can be taken, very limited action. And that’s also the next issue we are going to be dealing with. If someone runs into you at an intersection in a car and kills you, the family can take action against them. But that provision was removed from the bill this time around and there’s a lot of reasons that it was difficult to do in this bill. It required getting into to two or three separate committees in the House that would just delay the process. So, that was a concession, but we haven’t forgot about and we fully intend to go back on it.

Sandy: Can you talk a little bit about some of the more important aspects of the bill that will be apart of the approved legislation?

Carver: Yeah, the fact that evidence must be conserved. In other words, somebody’s going to have to be certified to collect the evidence when a crime occurs. If they don’t, they’ll be fined. They’ll have to report the crime within a very short period of time. The crimes will have to be made public. And the way it is now, Sandy, let me just give you a quick analogy. If somebody opened up a resort in California and they said, "OK, come on in. We're going to lock the doors for seven days and we're going to start serving you drinks and we have no police. If something happens, we will call somebody that’s a few hundred miles away." Well, people would go bananas! And yet, that’s what we got on a cruise ship. Hopefully, the bill will start to address those issues and make this stuff public, and then the public will become aware of it.

Sandy: You know, we’re going to put all that information on the website. You are on our newsletter every week. We wish you the very best, Ken. We are there with you 150 percent, you can rely on that, and thank you for joining us today and enlightening us more about the progression of this legislation. And we’re very happy it is moving forward.

Carver: Well, we appreciate your support, Sandy.

To listen to the audio of this interview, go to:

New cruise law about to set sail
Ken Carver / Photo from

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