In our last blog, our cruise ship passenger law firm discussed ways in which cruise lines could reduce the rate of crimes on board ships. Let’s continue exploring how the cruise industry can protect the safety of those on board and also, what passengers can do to reduce the likelihood they will become the victims of a crime as well.
Follow Maritime Laws and Policies
Victims of crimes on cruise ships often do not obtain the justice they deserve due to overlapping investigations, lost or insufficient evidence, failure to fully or properly question witnesses, and the fact that cruise lines often fail to abide by maritime laws and policies. There are a number of maritime regulations in place that are designed to protect those on board a ship against harm, especially against the threat of criminal activity.
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is one of the most important maritime laws. Aimed at strengthening safety and reporting standards, the law requires the cruise industry to provide a safe environment on ships, which includes installation of video surveillance systems in common areas, as well as door viewers and security latches on cabin doors. The law also requires that cruise ships be fully equipped with materials that can adequately allow medical professionals to perform medical exams on sexual assault victims, as well as materials that allow for accurate collection of forensic evidence.
The law also requires cruise line operators to log and report all incidents related to missing persons and deaths, as well as criminal acts involving U.S. citizens. The purpose of this provision is to ensure the FBI, Coast Guard and all other appropriate law enforcement agencies obtain accurate information regarding the incident in order to carry out an investigation, as well as to ensure the public has full access to cruise ship crime statistics.
Ensure Shipboard Justice
Not many people are aware of this, but cruise ship captains have the authority to remove someone from a ship if they pose a threat to others on board. Passenger ticket contracts have these terms listed in the fine print and agree to the terms before boarding. There have been several instances in which both passengers and crew members who have been suspected of being a threat have been kicked off a ship or have left voluntarily.
Though this practice has been undertaken in the past, there are still times in which suspects are either retained on board, or have never been caught or prosecuted. If sufficient evidence points to a threatening presence on board, captains should not only notify maritime authorities, but should also contact local police (if in port), and remove the threatening person from the ship to prevent further offenses from taking place.
Though Coast Guard officials as well as the FBI can enforce federal laws on the high seas when a U.S. citizen is involved, these agencies aren’t always given the chance to because cruise lines do not report these crimes. Enforcement of proper maritime laws is essential to preserving safety on ships, and this often means that captains must recognize a threatening presence and take the appropriate steps to remove these persons from their ships.
What Passengers Can Do
Though it is the cruise line’s responsibility to maintain a safe shipboard environment, passengers should also be aware that crimes can occur at any given moment, and should always be on the lookout. Our cruise lawyers advise passengers to always travel in groups because criminals tend to target isolated persons. We also advise passengers to establish meeting points with their travel partners so that in the event someone from the group does not show at the designated spot and at the designated time, crew members can be informed right away so an investigation can begin as quickly as possible.
We also advise passengers to refrain from carrying cash and other valuables while in port and to refrain from taking expensive valuables on a cruise vacation in general. Traveler’s checks are always preferred because they can be replaced. And criminals tend to target those who have belongings that can be easily stolen, such as jewelry or expensive cameras, so they can make a quick getaway.
Additionally, we advise passengers to always monitor their beverages because there have been several instances in which drinks have been contaminated, leading to sexual assault. Never leave a drink behind and never accept drinks from strangers. If possible, order drinks at the ship’s bar so you can see the bartender pour them right then and there.
In the event an incident does occur, passengers should be aware of the fact that they have a right to contact a cruise lawyer for assistance if they believe they have been the victim of a crime on the high seas or in a foreign port.