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Rockefeller wants more answers from cruise lines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Monday sent out a new round of letters to the nation's three largest cruise lines asking for more information about their passenger safety, security and health practices.

Chairman of the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has been vocal in his criticism of the industry since a fire crippled the Carnival Triumph in February. The fire left 4,200 people stranded in harsh conditions in the Gulf of Mexico for five days.

In addition to criticizing the company's safety policies, Rockefeller has said the cruise industry has exploited loopholes that allow companies to book profits offshore and avoid paying U.S. taxes.

"The cruise industry enjoys many advantages operating out of the United States but the advantages to American consumers and taxpayers are less clear," Rockefeller said in a statement.

He has already asked Carnival to reimburse federal agencies for the costs associated with rescuing the Triumph, which the company has since said it will do.

While his initial criticisms were focused mainly on Carnival, Rockefeller is now broadening the scope of his investigation into the industry.

"Recent cruise ship incidents underscore the need for a strong commitment to passenger safety and security from the entire cruise industry, not just those that wind up on the news most frequently," Rockefeller said.

"The responses from the cruise line companies will help Congress make sure the rules governing the cruise industry provide passengers with the safe and comfortable traveling experiences they expect and deserve, instead of giving the companies a free pass at taxpayer expense," he said.

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