Millions of people embark on cruise vacations each year thinking they will have the time of their lives. It never occurs to vacationers that they could be seriously injured during their trip. Unfortunately, the chances of passengers being involved in an accident or serious crime are higher than one would suspect, and according to statistics provided by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, crime rates on cruise ships are only rising.
Maritime Law Requires Reporting of Sexual Crimes
The number one crime reported on cruise ships is sexual assault, yet victims seldom obtain justice for their pain and suffering. Ocean liners have a responsibility under maritime law not only to provide a reasonably safe shipboard environment for all guests and crew members, but they are also required to report serious crimes to the FBI, especially sexual crimes. But despite the laws that are in effect, few companies actually follow them. These companies know that if they report a sexual crime to the FBI and other maritime authorities, the incident will likely go public and not only mar their reputation, but also increase their chances of being held liable for the cruise ship sexual assault due to their negligence in maintaining safety onboard the vessel.
The public has the right to know how many crimes occur each year on any given vessel in order to better protect themselves from harm, but there is a huge discrepancy between the number of crimes that are occurring and those that are actually reported.
In an effort to increase transparency regarding cruise ship crimes, Congress adopted the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA), which requires companies to report crimes to the FBI as soon as they occur as well as requires all alleged crimes to be publicly reported by the Coast Guard. Yet, the public still wasn’t getting an accurate account of these incidents because it only required actual crimes to be reported, not those that were “alleged.” As a result, much fewer crimes have been reported to the public than to the FBI over the years since the Act came into effect. In fact, out of the 959 crimes reported by cruise lines to the FBI since 2011, only 31 crimes were reported to the public.
Discrepancies in Public Crime Reporting
Below are some disturbing statistics showing just how large the discrepancy in public crime reporting has really been:
- Cruise line crimes required to be reported (includes serious crimes like sexual assault):
- 2011 – 68 crimes were reported to the FBI; only 16 crimes (23%) were reported to the public.
- 2012 – 62 crimes were reported to the FBI; only 15 crimes (24%) were reported to the public.
- Sexual Assault Crimes:
- 2011 – 42 crimes were reported to the FBI; only 13 crimes (31%) were reported to the public.
- 2012 – 29 crimes were reported to the FBI; only 11 crimes (38%) were reported to the public.
Cruise lines have also withheld information regarding the age of victims from the public, especially victims of sexual crimes. Regarding sexual assault, the FBI reported the following:
- Of the 29 alleged sexual crimes in 2012:
- 18 (62%) were adults.
- 10 victims (34%) were minors.
- 1 was reported as “other.”
Cruise Lines Use Loophole to Avoid Reporting Crimes
Because of a loophole in the legislation, cruise lines were failing to report ALL crimes, not disclosing alleged crimes, causing a discrepancy in crime data reporting. As a result, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013, intended to improve transparency in crime reporting. The act requires ocean liners to disclose information regarding ALL crimes to the public, whether they have been solved or not.
Four companies have already disclosed their crime reports to the public: Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line. However, other lines have yet to follow suit, and it has yet to be determined whether they will provide the public with crime data or if they will choose to ignore the legislation.
But not only have cruise lines failed to report crimes to the public, they also have made it increasingly difficult for victims to file their own reports. There are no police officers onboard ships to turn to in the event of a sexual assault. A cruise line’s own crew members often are the guilty parties in a sexual crime committed aboard a vessel, so victims are likely to hit a brick wall when trying to get the company to cooperate with an investigation against their own workers.
For these reasons, it is imperative that anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault directly report the crime to the FBI and seek legal help as quickly as possible with a cruise ship rape lawyer to protect their rights.