The Arizona Central newspaper published a blockbuster article this morning, Law Withholds Cruise Safety Information, which reveals how the cruise industry avoids reporting crimes.
In 2010, Congress passed a federal law which requires cruise lines to report missing passengers, murders, sexual assaults, and other crimes on cruise ships. Over the years there has been great debate over the frequency of crimes during cruises. Some experts have reported that the likelihood of being a victim of rape is twice as high on a cruise ship compared to on land, whereas cruise lines conclude - without reference to actual statistics - that cruise crime is "rare."
The new law, called the "Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act," was designed to force greater transparency from cruise lines regarding just how many women are raped and children molested during cruises. But instead of revealing the true number of crimes which take place, the new law permits cruise lines to cover the crimes up.
As originally written, the law required the Coast Guard to post on an internet site, "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . ." However, shortly before the bill was enacted into law, the language was changed to "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . . that are no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
As the article explains, this means that the public is not allowed to see reports of:
- Cases handled only by the cruise lines;
- Cases not investigated by the FBI;
- Cases under active investigation by the FBI; and
- Cases left open after the FBI files charges.
The result is that only a tiny fraction of cruise ship crimes are being disclosed to the public. The Arizona Central newspaper states:
"The public is not allowed to see reports of all alleged crimes aboard ships. Where the FBI once publicly reported more than 400 crimes a year, only six crimes on ships in the past nine months have been listed on the public database. And cases not investigated by the FBI -- for example, allegations handled by a ship's security staff -- never will be reported in the database under the new law."
6 crimes on 200 gigantic floating cities? Give me a break. Earlier this year I reported on 13 sexual crimes committed by a single pedophile crewmember on just a couple of Cunard cruise ships. None of these crimes against little kids ever found their way onto the database. Hundreds of thousands of parents booked cruises and took their kids into the cruise ships' "playzones" without knowing a child predator worked there. That's exactly how the cruise lines want the cruise crime law to work.
The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization worked hard for six years to see that the new cruise law came into effect. The cruise industry and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), fought tooth and nail against the ICV. But at the last minute, CLIA dropped its opposition to the new law.
I attended the five Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. leading up to the new law (including the June 19 2008 hearing before the Senate, photo below). I remember thinking that it was funny (i.e., odd, strange, suspicious) that CLIA rolled over at the last minute. Well, now it's clear, the cruise lines were just playing possum.
Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are full of former FBI agents and Coast Guard officials who go into the private sector to make the big bucks working for the cruise lines at the end of their careers.
While the victims of cruise ship rapes and families of missing cruise passengers were celebrating the passage of the cruise crime bill, the cruise lines were at work with their former colleagues at the FBI and Coast Guard to water the language of the new law down.
The newspaper quotes a FBI spokesperson Denise Ballew saying "We are not at liberty to discuss any information we may have fed into the legislative review process."
Before the cruise crime bill passed, cruise lines were self-regulating and not required to report crimes that took place in international waters. Now, there is a law but it was subverted to provide greater secrecy for the cruise industry than ever before.
Cruise lines can now safely hide before the loopholes that were inserted at the last minute without the knowledge of the cruise victims' organization. The result is that the public cannot learn of the actual number of crimes on cruise ships.
Take a look at the cruise crime statistics here. They are a joke.
Let's hope that Congress will not let cruise lines get away with these shenanigans. Congress needs to change the language of the bill back to as originally drafted. Otherwise, families thinking of cruising will be tricked and their family members potentially victimized if they rely on this incomplete and deceiving information.
June 10, 2012 Update: USA Today re-printed the article and there are some brutally honest comments being made in the comment section about the cruise industry, corporate lobbying, Federal government and FBI and pay-offs & sell-outs . . .