Lately, a lot of attention has been given to cruise ship accidents and crimes that transpire onboard the ship itself, including issues with passenger health, slip and falls, overboard accidents, and a host of sexual assaults. But while many of these incidents involve passengers, there are several where the victim is actually a crew member – especially crimes.
Just as passengers can become the targets of crime, so too can crew members. Sometimes the incidents occur onboard, and other times they happen ashore. Cruise travel is often glamorized, and in all honesty, for good reason. It’s one of the most economical ways to discover new and far off lands, and these days, the ships themselves are adventure enough for many.
But as with all good things, there is a darker side to cruising. Aside from the accidents and crimes that occur onboard, the foreign countries that are frequented by cruise ships are not always the safest. Last year, for example, there was a warning issued for travelers in the Bahamas after crime rates began to skyrocket in Nassau, the capital. Though port calls were still made in the popular island nation, passengers on several cruise lines were warned not to head too far into the city for fear of being robbed, attacked or even killed.
Honduras is another popular Caribbean destination for cruise ships. Of particular interest is the resort island of Roatan. But what not many people know is that crime in Honduras is even worse than in the Bahamas, and it has been for years! In fact, the U.S. State Department issued a warning for travelers in Honduras, which stated that Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world since 2010. Yet, cruise lines continue to call on the port.
As we’ve seen with several incidents in the past, cruise lines don’t tend to take action until AFTER something bad happens. And now, something terrible did in fact happen in Honduras; a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member was murdered in Roatan.
The incident took place on Sunday, April 6, when the Norwegian Pearl ship docked in Roatan. The circumstances surrounding the crime aren’t clear, but what our maritime lawyers have learned is that the victim was Gavan Yaycob, 27, of the Philippines. If a crew member has the day off, they are allowed to disembark at a port of call just like passengers and can explore at their leisure. That’s most likely what Mr. Yaycob was doing, but what should have been a relaxing day turned horribly wrong.
The victim had allegedly only made it a short distance from the port when a gunman reportedly tried to rob him of his cell phone. Whether an altercation took place or not, we do know that the crew member was shot and died of his injuries.
Since the fatal shooting crime took place in a foreign country – and the crew member was of a foreign nationality – it’s doubtful anyone here in the U.S. will get much more insight into what really happened in Roatan.
The Honduran Tourism Institute issued a statement on the incident, but appeared to focus more on how the shooting crime will affect tourism in general, as opposed to offering condolences to the crew member’s family and assuring an investigation will be initiated.
“This action weakens whatever effort the government could make to promote tourism and to grow the industry in this country,” said the institute’s director, Emilio Silvestre.
Seems like revenue is on both the cruise industry AND Honduras’ government’s minds.
Far too many crimes go undocumented and uninvestigated in foreign countries because the laws are too lax – especially when the crime is against a foreigner. Not even the victims’ families may be able to obtain information from foreign governments, which is why it’s always imperative to seek legal help with an experienced maritime attorney following any kind of crime or accident at sea or abroad. Cruise ship crew members are considered seafarers, and as such, are protected under international maritime law. When a crew member is a victim in an accident or crime, they or their surviving loved ones, may be able to file a seaman’s claim to ensure their rights are upheld.
We don’t know what – if anything – NCL is doing to investigate the incident or to repatriate the crew member’s body back to the Philippines. Hopefully the cruise line is working to help the crew member’s family obtain justice and is not just trying to lay low to avoid any kind of liability related to the incident.
Roughly two million tourists visited Honduras last year, half of which visited Roatan. If violent crimes are occurring, cruise lines should take a stand and protect both their crew and their passengers from harm by halting all port visits to Roatan, at least until crime rates diminish.