Bahamian Authorities Investigate Cruise Sex Crime

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

As if things couldn’t get worse for Carnival Cruise Line, now, a report of a sex crime onboard the Triumph has been brought to light. According to a story found in the Bahamian newspaper Tribune 242, several detectives from the island flew out to Galveston, Texas, where the Triumph is homeported, to investigate an alleged sexual assault that occurred on the ship.

The investigation began on Monday, Feb. 18, four days after the Triumph reached land four days behind schedule. The Triumph, which is a Bahamian flagged vessel, docked in Mobile, Alabama with over 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crewmembers following a fire in the ship’s engine room. However while the investigation into the fire is being led by the Bahamas Maritime Authority, detectives from the Royal Bahamas Police Force have been charged with investigating a sexual assault claim that allegedly took place on the ship while it was left without power in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We send some officers to Texas to head up the investigation,” explained Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson. “The ship is a Bahamian Flag Ship so wherever something happens we have to tend it. The officers went over there [on Monday] and should be back sometime tomorrow. They are investigating a sexual offense matter that happened on the cruise.”

While it may seem a bit strange that the Bahamian authorities have to fly all the way to Galveston to investigate the alleged sexual offense, maritime law requires that the primary investigative unit when an accident or crime takes place onboard a cruise vessel will be the country whose flag the vessel flies.

And since pretty much every cruise ship flies a foreign flag and is registered in a foreign country, the law of that country can have a huge impact on the way cases are executed and how the victim obtains justice.

Cruise ship rape, sexual assault and other sex crimes are the number one most frequently reported crimes on the high seas. Just last August, a 15-year-old girl was raped on a Carnival ship by a 30-year-old man and several teens. The assault took place on the Carnival Sensation, which departed from Port Canaveral in Florida, after the main offender, was given access to a second cabin while allowed to maintain access to his original cabin after he and his wife complained about noise.

Carnival’s lack of reasonable care to assure the proper safety and security of it’s guest and the almost certain violation of its own policies and procedures enabled a predator to be able to have access to an empty cabin to do in it as he wished. In effect Carnival provided a safe place for the predator to carry to his crime undetected.
Fortunately for this particular cruise rape victim, whose name we are keeping anonymous due to the fact that she is a minor, her assailant was tried and found guilty and is now facing life in prison.

While this young victim obtained at least some semblance of justice, the sad truth is that many cruise ship sexual assault crimes go unreported and/or never get prosecuted. Under the current laws in Florida the Cruise Lines current venue of choice for being sued, (yes the cruise line is the one that pursuant to its ticket gets to decide where it can be sued) sexual acts with a person under the age of majority are considered rape, even if the victim consented to the incident at the time.

We have represented multiple female passengers that have awoken in their cabins while on a cruise vacation to find that a rapist crewmember was on top of them.

Fortunately, maritime law states that assaults on a cruise vessel, especially if the perpetrator is a member of the crew, subject the cruise line to being sued for the acts of that crew member and if liability is found the Cruise Line can be held financially responsible for the damages suffered by the rape victim.

Sex crimes can take a long time to be investigated and although Cruise lines now have to notify the Coast Guard, the FBI and other investigative units when a report is made by a passenger or a crewmember by the time all the details are recorded, the assailant often times get away.

Because the Triumph was left without power after the fire, if crimes and/or accidents occurred, prosecuting them will be more difficult than usual.

It is evident that something must be done to improve safety onboard vessels. Money is being spent on making ships bigger and “better,” but apparently without much regard to the actual safety of those who will be sailing them on the high seas.

Photo Credits:

Top Center: Cruise Rape Victim/Carnival Triump – dnaindia.com/csmonitor.com
Top Left: Cruise Rape Victim – dailyrecord.co.uk
Middle Right: Cruise Rape Victim – chicagocriminallawyer.com
Bottom Left: Cruise Crewmember Drugs Passenger Drink – nakedlaw.avvo.com