In January of this year, a crew ship member aboard the Holland America Line cruise that disembarked from port Everglades was found guilty of sexually and physically assaulting a passenger before attempting to throw her overboard. In November of 2014, a 43 year old man was charged with transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of having sex when he was caught by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at the end of the Carnival Triumph cruise.
Crimes aboard cruise ships have been, historically, some of the hardest to prove. From lack of technology aboard ships, to international regulations, and because of the inability to immediately secure a crime scene, are some of the major disadvantages when investigating these crimes. In 2010, the CVSSA (Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act) was written in order to ensure cruise ship line owners would take further measures to decrease the amount of crimes reported on cruise ships, and increase preventative and reporting measures in the event a crime does occur.
The International Maritime Organization, or IMO, is an international regulatory body made up of 170 Member States, including the U.S. The IMO, who created the CVSSA, reports in 2007, that after 5 years of gathering data, it was determined that sexual and physical assault on cruise ships were the top most crimes the FBI investigated when a cruise ship crime was reported. In addition, the CVSSA notes that passengers on cruise ships often don’t understand their vulnerability of being victimized and more than often don’t understand what legal rights they have aboard cruise lines and who to contact in the case that they become the victim of a crime while on a cruise ship.
It is true that crime still happens aboard cruise ships, but the CVSSA has greatly increased the reporting of, the evidence gathering of, and the overall preparedness of the staff and crew in the event a crime is committed. In fact, in 2010, it was reported that there were more than 150 sexual assault allegations from onboard cruise lines that ported in the U.S. Among the many requirements for cruise ships listed in the amendment, the CVSSA notes that each cruise vessel must have photographic technology to capture images of passengers, and detection technology to alert the crew when someone has fallen overboard. Cruise ships are also now required to have video surveillance systems throughout the ship, in order to catch crimes when they happen, and provide evidence during trials. In addition, sexual assault medical examinations must be able to be performed on the cruise line, as well as anti-retroviral medications must be stocked to prevent STDs for victims of these crimes.
In addition to crimes of sexual and physical assault, missing people and deaths while onboard are also dangers for cruise line passengers. The International Cruise Victims, or ICV, documents all serious crimes that happen aboard cruise lines on their website, and make appearances on news networks often to increase awareness of the dangers aboard cruise ships. For instance, on Christmas Eve of 2010, a 3-year-old girl died while in the kiddie pool, while a Lifeguard should have been located, but was not. Unfortunately, it is said by the mother on the ICV website, Holland America admitted to no wrong-doing and claimed protection under the Death on the High Seas Act.
In order to further educate cruise line passengers, it is required that material be available for every passenger that details medical professionals and security personnel on-board, where they can be located, and how to contact them in the case of an emergency. It also outlines the different jurisdictional authority when reporting crimes such as kidnapping, homicide, missing person, and more while aboard the vessel and in visited countries. Each vessel is also required to have a log book that can be examined when the ship reaches its home port, crimes described throughout the CVSSA that embarks or disembarks from the United States.
In addition to the increased efforts in prevention and reporting of crimes occurring onboard cruise lines, training services have also been implemented. These training services for crew members aboard cruise lines are meant to train the members on proper preservation of crime scenes and evidence. At least one crew member aboard vessels that plan on entering a United States port, and there are United States citizens on board, must be certified in this training.
Crimes still occur on cruise lines, and they are still difficult to prosecute due to international regulations, old laws such as the Death on the High Seas Act, and more. However, if you have been the victim of a crime on a cruise ship, contact our firm to learn your rights.