Ensure passengers safety on board ocean going vessels – Arroyo

CAMARINES Sur Rep. Diosdado ‘Dato’ Arroyo said owners of ocean-going cargo or passenger vessels should upgrade and modernize on-board security requirements to guarantee the safety of passengers and crewmembers.

“Few vacationing passengers on vessels had been aware of their potential vulnerability to crime while on an ocean voyage,” Arroyo said, adding “it is more difficult to solve high seas crime than those committed on-land.”

Arroyo and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, co-author, urged Congress to enact HB 4608 or the Vessel Security and Accountability Act, which will establish requirement to ensure the security and safety of passengers and crew on vessels.

The Bicol lawmaker noted that there are around 200 overnight ocean-going vessels worldwide. In 2007 alone, he added, there were about 12 million passenger who went on cruise worldwide, mostly unaware of the dangers they face while on said voyage.

In the United States, Arroyo said, sexual and physical assaults on vessels were leading crimes reported and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

These crimes at sea, according to the FBI files, may involve attacks both by passengers and crewmembers on other passengers and crewmembers.

Furthermore, there is that higher level of difficulty for professional criminal investigators to immediately secure an alleged crime scene on a vessel, recover evidence of an on-board offense.

“Obtaining reliable crime-related data from government sources can be as difficult, in view of the fact that multiple countries may be involved when a crime occurs on the high seas,” the lawmaker pointed out.

“We have to contend with the flag country of the vessel, the country of citizenship of particular passengers, and any country having special or maritime jurisdiction,” he said.

Advanced nations like the United States, given the glaring consequences of such incidents, have already adopted laws addressing sea crimes.

This bill seeks to keep to Philippines abreast with evolving international legal frameworks designed to enhance safety in the high seas, Arroyo stressed.

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