This week we reported on a cruise bust on a cruise ship in the Cayman Islands involving a group of crew members from Jamaica and St. Vincent. It sounds like the drug busts we reported on involving Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and the Enchantment of the Seas.
There is no question that drug smuggling on cruise ships is seriously on the rise.
Today my perception of the extent of the problem can into focus when I read the highly respected maritime source Lloyd's List's report on the problem of drug smuggling on cruise ships. In an article entitled "Drug Crimes Linked to Cruiseships Soar 52%," Lloyd's List stated:
"UK based Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) told Lloyd’s List there had also been a sharp increase in drug smuggling on cruise ships, which prompted it to issue a specific alert to cruise lines. SOCA said that despite its alert, cruise operators are down playing the problem and continue to rely on existing security measures to deal with the problem. The upsurge appears to be linked to professional drug gangs increasingly targeting cruise vessels. According to the law enforcement agencies, drug gangs have turned to cruise ships because drug enforcement agencies have worked hard to stifle smuggling routes using yachts, fishing boats, cargo vessels and aircraft. The gangs now see cruise ships as alternative vehicles for carrying drugs."
The statistic that blew me away was that the number of drug crimes detected in the US linked to cruiseships increased last year to 663, according to figures obtained by Lloyd’s List from the US Border Agency!
The presence of such large quantities of drugs on cruise ships reflects several problems with the cruise industry:
(1) The notion that cruise lines perform background checks on their employees is a joke. The fact of the matter that some of the waiters, bartenders, and cabin attendants serving your family during the cruise are drug smugglers.
(2) The cruise lines are more skilled at catching passengers who try to smuggle a bottle of Chardonnay wine aboard, than they are guarding the ship entrances for drug-smuggling crew members and large amounts of provisions loaded by fork lifts. There are simply not enough security guards aboard cruise ships. The cruise industry knows it. The reality is that cruise lines are more interested in making money selling booze and confiscating wine and alcohol brought aboard by passengers than intercepting large quantities of cocaine smuggled by their own employees.
(3) The presence of professional drug gangs presents a huge risk of violence against passengers and crew members who see suspicious drug-related activities on the cruise ship. It is easy to get tossed overboard if you see something you shouldn't have seen.
The cruise line's CCTV cameras never seem to work when this happens.
Photo credit: AOL News - Are Drugs on Cruise Ships on the Rise?