NDAA Requires Cruise Ships to Carry Licensed Physicians

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Published Dec 14, 2020 3:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Among many other non-defense provisions of this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a clause requiring cruise ships to carry a licensed doctor may soon become law, building on existing legislation requiring an onboard registered nurse. 

The new language requires cruise ships to ensure that "a physician is always present and available to treat any passengers who may be on board the vessel in the event of an emergency situation." It also gives legal weight to the health care guidelines for cruise ship medical facilities published by the American College of Emergency Physicians, and it requires cruise operators to brief passengers on the location of the medical bay and the steps to follow during a medical emergency. 

A separate section requires the Coast Guard to establish guidance on placement of security cameras in public areas aboard passenger vessels. After the guidance is published, cruise operators will have to conduct a risk assessment to "evaluate the placement of video surveillance equipment to deter, prevent, and record a sexual assault aboard the vessel." With guidance from a class-certified third party, they will have a total of about three years to design a surveillance plan and install cameras. 

The amendments had the support of the Cruise Lines International Association, the primary organization representing the global cruise industry, according to the Miami Herald. 

Both chambers of Congress have passed the NDAA for FY2021 and have agreed on a conference report, putting the bill on President Donald Trump's desk. On Sunday, Trump repeated a threat to veto the $740 billion defense package, asserting that the measure's "biggest winner . . . is China." 

Trump has previously threatened to veto the NDAA because it does not include a repeal of certain legal protections for social media companies and website operators, including Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb and Wikipedia. Twitter has regularly blocked or flagged the president's Twitter posts for violating its platform's terms of service, including content that Twitter believes "might be misleading about an election or other civic process." Trump accuses Twitter of displaying anti-conservative bias in its forum moderation decisions, which are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. In response, the president has demanded the section's repeal.