It seems as though the cruise industry just can’t stop getting in trouble. It has only been two weeks since our maritime lawyers reported a most disturbing instance of sexual assault onboard a Disney Cruise ship involving an 11-year-old girl and less than a week since we talked about the sentencing of a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger caught with child pornography, and now, yet another sexual crime has been reported on the high seas.
We have just received word that a crew member aboard a Holland America vessel has been arrested on child pornography charges after authorities found extremely explicit files of children on his computer. Although the aforementioned incidents did not take place within the same time frame, in just a matter of two weeks, we have learned about THREE separate cruise ship sexual crimes. This is very alarming, especially in light of the fact that sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships.
This latest incident unfolded onboard the line’s Veendam ship as it was docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Canadian border patrol agents were conducting a routine search aboard the ship when the child pornography was uncovered. According to officials, the pornographic images were found on several pieces of equipment belonging to a cruise ship employee who worked as a musician onboard the vessel. The offender’s name has not been released, but what we have learned thus far is that he is a 36-year-old man from Morden, Manitoba.
The worker was arrested on Monday and is currently facing child pornography charges. In the U.S., child pornography is a felony, punishable by imprisonment. The suspect is currently in the custody of Halifax authorities and is scheduled to appear in court in Nova Scotia on Tuesday.
But if the discovery had been made while the vessel was docked in another country, not all nations impose strict consequences for this type of behavior, nor do all Cruise Lines strive to hand over law breakers to the authorities or to bring swift justice to victims when a crime is uncovered – This is exactly what Disney Cruise Lines was criticized for after failing to report the child molestation onboard the Disney Dream last year. The young victim’s pain and suffering just came to light a few days ago, when a video of the entire incident emerged.
Because Disney failed (or chose not to) address the crime onboard the vessel while it was docked in Port Canaveral, the offender was able to walk away from the incident without any repercussions and in all likelihood will continue to pray on the innocent unhampered. However, thanks to the diligent work of the Canadian border authorities, this time at least this criminal has been caught.
National laws require every vessel coming into a Canadian port to be inspected by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA). Yet, despite the fact that this incident was handled quickly and appropriately, what does the fact that it happened at all tell us about the efficacy of Holland American’s hiring criteria for their crew. Do they do background checks? Do they monitor the crew computer access and internet traffic? Shouldn’t they be doing so in the world in which we live ?
A spokesperson for the CBSA explained that child pornography has been discovered repeatedly throughout the years on cruise lines. In fact, between 2009 and 2012 alone, a total of 56 seizures confiscated child pornography from cruise lines.
Cruising and sexual crimes have coexisted long enough, it is time that zero tolerance be not only words in the employee’s handbooks, but that they become a reality on board the ship’s.