U.S. Girl Strangled, Sexually Assaulted in the Bahamas

Bahamas Sexual AssaultThe day after we listed the Bahamas as the number one most dangerous cruise destination in the world, a newspaper reports that a "17 year old American girl was left traumatised after she was strangled to near unconsciousness and forced to perform a sexual act" on a 41 year old Bahamian man on San Salvador island. 

San Salvador is one of the out islands of the Bahamas. 

The Tribune newspaper says that the girl was riding her bicycle in the dock area of Cockburn Town Monday morning when the man emerged from the bushes, forcing her to perform oral sex on him. 

Cockburn Town is the capital of San Salvador Island.  

The newspaper also says that the girl's parents recently purchased a vacation home on the island.

The man reportedly has a mental disability and was accused of a similar act when he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman tourist at a Club Med resort.  

The man is in police custody in Nassau.  

The newspapers in the Bahamas are not bashful in reporting crimes like this.  Unlike many countries in the Caribbean which have a tendency to avoid or under-report crimes against U.S. citizens out of fear of affecting adversely affecting tourism, the Bahamas has a reputation of having a diligent and transparent press (like the Tribune below).

Bahamas Sexual Assault

Holland America Line Crew Member Raped Passenger & Tried to Throw Her Overboard

HAL Sexual AssaultThe Sun Sentinel reports today that a Holland America Line (HAL) crew member sexually assaulted and then tried to throw a woman from her balcony.

Reporter Paula McMahon writes that the crime occurred aboard the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam. 

The crew member is identified as Ketut Pujayasa, age 28. from Indonesia. He worked a stateroom attendant. He used a master key card to gain illegal entry into the victim's cabin.

The article describes that the crew member "appeared with no warning inside the passenger's darkened stateroom in the middle of the night, raped, beat, punched and strangled her and then tried to throw her from the balcony into the ocean in international waters somewhere off the coast of Roatan, Honduras."

The attack was horrific. The newspaper states that the crew member struck the woman several times including using a laptop computer and a curling iron, and that he "used a phone cord and curling iron cord to try to silence her screams and yells for help."

The attack "went back and forth from her bed to the stateroom balcony and back into the room."

The criminal charges against the HAL crew included an account of another passenger who saw the victim when she ran out of her cabin, dressed only in a tank top that was covered in blood:

"The passenger also noted that [the victim] had a curling iron wrapped and tangled around her neck and/or hair. He also described [her] as having black eyes and visible bruising around her neck and shoulders. [The woman], fearing death was imminent, asked the passenger to relay to her family how much she loved them."

The 31 year-old woman was flown by air ambulance to a hospital in South Florida because of her severe injuries.

The crew member was booked into the Broward County jail. He claims that the rape and assault were revenge because he felt slighted.

We previously mentioned the incident in an article on February 15th: Crew Member Assaults Passenger Aboard HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam During "Bare Necessities" Cruise

Our View: We have attended six Congressional hearings before the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate about crimes against passengers, There have been several hearings where other women have described the danger of permitting male cabin attendants to have access to master key cards for the passengers' cabins. There is no good reason to permit male cabin attendants to be responsible for cabins where there are single women or children. Their key cards must be deactivated after working hours.

Photo: Ketut Pujayasa - Sun Sentinel / Broward County Sheriff's Office 

Elderly Couple on Thomson Celebration Brutally Assaulted

A newspaper in the U.K. reports on a "dream luxury cruise turned into a holiday from hell" when an elderly couple were brutally assaulted by a fellow passenger. 

The Gazette Live states that the violent crime occurred aboard the Thomson Celebration. The woman suffered "serious spinal injuries" and her husband incurred "serious facial injuries." Both victims were taken to the hospital. 

A spokesperson for the cruise line said the assailant left the cruise after the attack, and that it "is very Thomson Celebrationsorry to hear of the injuries." 

“We would like to reassure our customers that their safety is of paramount importance and incidents such as this are extremely rare.”

Cases like this never cease to amaze me.

Instead of apprehending the assailant and confining him to the brig or secluding him to his cabin under the watch of a guard, the cruise line lets him disembark and escape justice. Invariably, the cruise line's PR team expresses condolences and claims that the crime is "rare."

In my opinion, the captains and security officers of cruise ships which permit assailants to flee justice should be arrested for aiding and abetting a criminal.

The cruise ship sailed from Santa Cruz in Tenerife to exotic ports like Las Palmas, Santa Cruz, Funchal and Agadir in Morocco.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / ozgurmulazimoglu

Did Costa Cruises Assist an Alleged Rapist Escape Justice?

The  Philippine Daily Inquirer reports on the case of a a Filipino crew member who alleges that her supervisor raped her while she was working on board the MV Costa Classica last year.

The victim worked as a security guard on the cruise ship. She alleges that she was summoned to the security office on the cruise ship where she observed two security officers drinking alcohol. The men are of Indian nationality: Joseph Chacko (Chief Security Officer) and Anoop Palatty (Assistant Security Officer).

The crew member claims that Palatty made indecent advances, but she left the office and continued with her security patrol. Later that night, she was summoned again, this time to Chacko’s cabin, where Costa Classica Cruise Shipshe went believing it was official business. She claims that the two officers were still drinking when she arrived at the cabin.

According to the crew member, Chacko then allegedly sexually abused her as soon as Palatty left the cabin. The victim alleges that she tried to resist but she was overpowered.  

She reported the incident to the ship's captain, Italian Pierre Paulo Gallastroni, who told her to make a statement. She also reported the alleged crime to the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong where she was medically and physically examined.

The newspaper article states that the two security officers disembarked in Hong Kong and escaped before the police police could begin their investigation.

This case illustrates a problem in the cruise industry we have seen over the years. When crew members commit crimes, there is a conflict of interest in having shipboard security being involved in the ship's investigation. The problem is really bad when a security guard or security officer commits a crime.  Security personnel are suppose to provide law and order on cruise ships.  But cases like this illustrate the need for laws requiring independent police officers to be present on all cruise ships.

Two weeks ago we wrote about a 34 year old waiter sexually molesting an 11 year old girl on the Disney Dream while the cruise ship was at a port in Florida. But Disney Cruise Line refused to report the crime to either the local police or the FBI and then sailed to the Bahamas where it knew that the police would not do anything. Disney flew the waiter back to India rather than return him to the U.S. where he would have been arrested and prosecuted.

A trial involving the Costa case is scheduled to begin in Genoa, Italy on June 18th. Costa has some explaining to do, like why didn't the company apprehend the security officer? Why did the cruise line permit him to leave the ship? Who paid for the two men to fly back to India?

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / 663highland

Sex Attack Alleged On Carnival Cruise Ship

Carnival Cruise Ship RapeJust when you think that things could not get any worse for Carnival, news is just breaking that authorities are investigating what is being characterized as a "sex attack" on a Carnival cruise ship. 

A newspaper in the Bahamas is reporting that a team of of detectives from Nassau to Galveston, Texas yesterday to investigate an alleged sexual assault that occurred on a Carnival cruise ship.

The newspaper identified the cruise ship as the Triumph, which has remained in the headlines after it caught fire and had to be towed back to port.  However, the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) reportedly stated that the incident did not involve the Triumph.  The BMA said that it was investigating a Bahamian registered vessel but not the Triumph. The BMA did not even acknowledge that they were investigating a cruise ship. 

The country of the Bahamas is responsible for investigating fires and collisions as well as crimes which occur on cruise ships flying the flag of the Bahamas.

Here's what the Bahamian newspaper is reporting: 

While the Bahamas Maritime Authority is leading the investigation into what caused the fire, detectives from the Royal Bahamas Police Force are also investigating a sexual offence claim, Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said yesterday.

“We send some officers to Texas to head up the investigation. The ship is a Bahamian Flag Ship so wherever something happens we have to tend it. The officers went over there this morning and should be back sometime tomorrow. They are investigating a sexual offence matter that happened on the cruise. We should have some more information tomorrow on the matter.”

A statement is also expected from the Maritime Authority, according to London Representative Dwain Hutchinson. He said an investigation is underway and a statement will be released to the press “soon.”

Carnival flags six of its ships in the Bahamas, including the Destiny, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Sensation and the Triumph.

Sexual assaults on cruise ships are one of the cruise industry's nastiest secrets.  We have attended several Congressional hearings which have studied the problem. There has been expert testimony before Congress that the risk of being raped at sea on a cruise ship is twice that of being attacked ashore.  

February 18, 2013 Update:  Carnival say that the incident but it does not appear to be related to any Carnival ships.

No Arrest After Cruise Passenger with Service Dog is Attacked Aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas

The popular online community Cruise Critic reports today on a disturbing incident where a 59-year-old passenger attacked another passenger who had a service dog with him aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas on December 20th. 

The article is based primarily on comments by Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl" who posted:

"My heart goes out to our new found friend and his service dog Freedom. He was viciously attacked late at nite while getting a pizza in the Solarium. He was beaten because a man could not respect service dogs and felt Freedom should not be on board." (The photo to the right is not of Freedom).

Service Dog - Disabled - Cruise ShipAlthough Royal Caribbean confirmed the incident occurred, the cruise line disembarked the passenger in Antigua rather than detaining him to be arrested by the FBI when the cruise ship returned to port in Fort Lauderdale.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told Cruise Critic that the attacker was disembarked for being in violation of the line's "guest conduct policy."  

Royal Caribbean claims that it reported the assault and battery to local law enforcement in Antigua "as well as to the Broward Sheriff's Office in Florida." Remarkably, there is no mention of a report to the FBI which has jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas involving U.S. citizens. The FBI can make an arrest where the victim and/or the assailant is a U.S. citizen. The failure of the cruise line to report the incident to the FBI violates the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

A spokesperson for cruise line said "ship crew would have detained the man had a law enforcement agency asked them to hold him, but no such request was received."  This statement begs the question why the FBI was not notified.

Royal Caribbean also characterized the victim as sustaining only "minor injuries and was treated in the ship's medical facility."  But according to Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl," the man was transferred to a Fort Lauderdale hospital at the conclusion of the sailing to be checked for broken ribs and possible internal injuries.

Unfortunately, this is often the way that cruise lines handle shipboard crimes. If the incident had occurred say at the Dadeland Mall here in Miami, the local police would certainly make an arrest and the case would be prosecuted. But on the high seas, the cruise lines just dump the criminal off at the next port and wash their hands of the situation. Often they refuse to notify the FBI. Prosecutions are then virtually impossible.

 

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean - a service dog is defined by Royal Caribbean as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

Did Somali Pirates Chase Cruise Ship?

A newspaper in Oman published a report today indicating that a cruise ship, approximately 15 nautical miles off Masirah Island (east of Oman) "was aggressively approached by two skiffs suspected of belonging to Somali pirates" on November 23rd. The newspaper reports that the two skiffs ended their pursuit only when a shipboard private security team fired warning flares at the craft.

According to the Muscat Daily newspaper, "reports issued by multinational anti-piracy forces operating in the region state that the two white skiffs, a favoured attack craft used by Somali pirates, approached the unnamed cruise ship on Friday afternoon “in an aggressive manner.” The skiffs were equipped with a large outboard engine and each reportedly contained four persons on board."

Somali Pirates Attack Cruise ShipAccording to a report by the Oceanus Live monitoring centre, the embarked security team fired at least two flares at the first skiff, causing it to change direction, away from the unidentified cruise ship. A third flare was fired at the second skiff, resulting in both aborting their approach. 

The issue of pirates attacking and holding cruise passengers hostage is not far fetched.  Consider the following articles we have recently written:

Somali Pirates - A Threat To Cruise Ships?

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?

Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Does anyone have information regarding this latest incident?

Does anyone have video or photos to share? (The photo above involves a prior pirate attack against a cruise ship).

Does anyone know the name of the cruise ship involved?

November 26, 2011 Update:  Cruise Critic states that the Azamara Journey was forced to take "evasive" action November 23 when the ship's crew noticed several small boats quickly approaching the ship while sailing off the coast of Oman.

According to Cynthia Martinez, director of Global Corporate Communications for Azamara's parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., "In an abundance of caution, the Captain took precautionary measures, which included asking that guests move to the interior areas of the ship, as well as evasive maneuvers."

"An abundance of caution?" Pirates were stalking the cruise ship! 

Court Rejects Carnival's Attempt to Dismiss Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Sexually Assaulted Girl

Yesterday a federal judge in Miami rejected a motion filed by Carnival Corporation seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of young girl who was sexually assaulted on a Carnival cruise ship.   

The case involved a nine year old girl who was raped on Carnival's Destiny cruise ship. The case is a reminder that sexual assaults against children occur during cruises, even when the children are entrusted to youth counselors on cruise ships. The case also shows how far cruise lines like Carnival will go to avoid legal responsibility when crimes occur during cruises.

The allegations against Carnival in this case were described as follows:

At the age of nine, the child took a cruise aboard Carnival’s Destiny cruise ship. She was accompanied on this cruise by several family members. During the cruise, and at a Carnival employee’s encouragement, the child's father signed her into a shipboard children’s program (“Camp Carnival”). The father told Camp Carnival personnel that his daughter was to stay with them until he returned for her. However, when the little girl asked for permission from the Camp Carnival staff member to attend a teen party with her cousin and friends, the staff member permitted her to go. After leaving Camp Carnival, the girl was physically and sexually assaulted.

The lawsuit alleges negligence on Carnival’s part in the false advertising of Camp Carnival, the failure to implement appropriate safety precautions, and the refusal to warn the child's parents of the numerous sexual assaults of passengers, including minors, during cruises.

The mother hired a lawyer in Florida and filed a lawsuit within three years of the rape.

Under federal maritime law, lawsuits involving minors must be filed within three years after the injury, or within one year from the date a legal representative is appointed for the minor (whichever date is shorter). 

Even though the lawsuit was timely filed both within three years of the rape and within one year since the mother was appointed as the child's legal guardian, Carnival moved to dismiss the case as "untimely." Carnival made a technical argument that the one year limitations period began to run when the mother learned of the crime or, alternatively, within one year after the mother retained a lawyer and the attorney sent a claim letter to Carnival. 

The Court rejected Carnival's argument and permitted the case to continue.

The child is represented by David Brill who is a skilled trial lawyer who represents crew members and passengers against cruise lines.

The motion to dismiss the child's case was filed by defense lawyer Lauren DeFabio of the Mase, Lara law firm.

 

Photo credit:  Maxum255 / Wikipedia

Will Cruise Ships Use Water Guns Against Pirates?

Pirate attacks against cruise ships have occurred and will continue to occur in the future.  It's a subject we have written about:  Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate AttacksAre Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?, and Somali Pirates - A Threat To Cruise Ships? 

A marine expert warned that the successful capture of a cruise ship with thousands of passengers on board would provide Somali pirates with “the mother of all ransoms.”

Cruise ships have used a wide variety of measures against pirates, including Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) which emit powerful sound waves. 

A  company Security Alliance For Effective Solutions, LLC (SAFE) has designed a new device designed to prevent pirates from boarding ships. Called the "Nemesis 5000," the revolving water gun shoots an 80mph “360-degree curtain of water” to blast the pirates and keep them from using harpoon ladders to scale the side of vessels. The water blast is twice the blast as a high pressure fire hose.

The Express newspaper in the U.K. reports that at least 28 vessels and more than 500 hostages are currently being held by Somali pirates who netted more than $120 million in ransom payments last year. 
 

 

 

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?

An article today by Wolfgang H. Thome of eTurboNews (ETN) raises two disturbing scenarios:

Somali Pirates - Balmoral Cruise Ship - Hijack - Attack1.  It is only a matter of time before Somali pirates hijack a cruise ship, and

2.  There are no plans in place to rescue the passengers when this happens.

The article is entitled "Somali Piracy - a Problem from Hell – What is the Naval Coalition Doing?" 

The article discusses the recent hijacking of a Saudi supertanker with 300,000 tons of crude oil by what Mr. Thome calls "Somali sea terrorists."  This recent attack occurred nearly a thousand miles off the coast of Somalia.  A so-called mother ship launched fast skiffs to intercept and capture the tanker. 

If Somali pirates can board a  supertanker on the high seas, there is no doubt that a cruise ship is Somali Pirates - Danger Zone - Hijacking Riskalso easy prey.  If pirates capture a cruise ship, there is the risk that they will execute passengers. 

What also disturbs the ETN correspondent is that no naval coalition vessels were dispatched to investigate, safeguard shipping and attack and capture the pirates.

When Mr. Thome asked officials what the naval forces would do should a passenger cruise ship fall into the hands of pirates, "there was little more than stunned silence."  He fears that it will take a major tragedy and loss of lives before there is a plan of how to deal with the sea terrorists. Until then, he concludes, "the problem from hell will persist."

I have discussed this issue in a prior blog entitled "Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks."  I have talked about pirate attacks on the Seabourn Spirit and the Balmoral cruise ships, and the failure of the cruise industry to take realistic steps to protect the passengers and crew. 

Neither of these unarmed cruise ships could match the pirates' AK-47's and rifles.  The Seaborn Somali Pirates - MSC Melody - Sitting Duck? Spirit used water hoses and the crew on the Balmoral brandished fake wooden rifles to try and scare off the pirates. 

When the MSC Melody cruise ship was attacked by pirates earlier this year, the first line of defense was the passengers' throwing deck chairs to repel the pirates who were climbing up the side of the cruise ship.  In an article entitled "Cruise Passengers Fought off Pirates with Deckchairs," U.K.'s Telegraph reported how vacationing passengers fought off gun-wielding Somali pirates with deck chairs and tables when the pirates targeted their cruise ship near the Seychelles.

The cruise industry needs to get serious and provide the cruise ships with more than hoses, super-loud sound machines, and fake weapons. Otherwise, we will all be watching CNN broadcast the terrifying story of a dozen Somali pirates with automatic weapons and RPG's holding a cruise ship hostage.

 

Credits:

Balmoral cruise ship   MailOnline

Map          MailOnline Terror for 1,200 Britons as Somali Pirates with Rocket Launchers Attack Cruise Ship (Balmoral)

Melody cruise ship      Reuters via U.K. Telegraph

Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Today, six crew members filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries sustained when the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates in April. The crew members sued Maersk Line Maersk Alabama - Pirate AttackLtd., the operator of the vessel, and Waterman Steamship Corp., the crewing company which hired them. They are seeking damages for physical and mental injuries and loss of income.

The seaman allege that Maersk failed to adequately provide for self defense before transiting through deadly waters. The lawsuit raises interesting issues regarding the liability of vessel owners and operators, including cruise lines, for injuries sustained during pirate attacks. 

Shipping companies and cruise lines face liability when they do not take reasonable steps to protect their passengers and crew members.  They are legally responsible when they fail to protect the guests and crew from risks which are known or reasonably foreseeable.

Pirate Attacks Are Forseeable But Shipping Companies Want to Save Money  

The risk of an attack by pirates, particularly from Somali is well known.  No cargo or cruise line Cruise Ship Pirate Attackcan argue with a straight face that an attack by pirates is unforeseeable. There have been literally hundreds of pirate attacks against a wide variety of cargo ships, cruise ships, and private yachts and sailboats in just the last few years. 

The problem is that many companies do not want to spend the money to hire security guards.  Or when they have security personnel, they do not permit them to have firearms to protect the passengers and crew.  Many of the cruise ships cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but the cruise lines refuse to pay an extra $50,000 a year to hire a couple of extra guards and equip them with weapons to fight off the heavily armed pirates. 

Many shipping companies think that they can save money by having virtually no security personel, and then ask the U.S. Navy to patrol the waters or come to the rescue after the ships are attacked by pirates.  The Houston maritime lawyer representing the six crew members, Brian Beckcom, states that "Maersk made a conscious decision, despite going into pirate-infested waters, not to provide any meaningful security for its workers.  Instead they'd just rely on the taxpayers and U.S. military to bail them out after the fact." 

The filing of the lawsuit comes a day after the the Maersk Alabama was attacked by pirates off of East Africa for the second time in seven months. On November 18th the pirates again attacked the vessel, but this time the crew members successfully fended off the attackers because they had armed guards who returned gunfire. The vessel did not carry armed security during the first attack.

Seabourn Spirit Security Officer Michael Groves - Bad Ass There have been a number of highly publicized pirate attacks against cruise ships in the last few years. 

Pirates Love Cruise Ships - Attack Against the Seabourn Spirit

In November 2005, two speedboats full of pirates attacked the luxury cruise ship Seaborne Spirit, cruising about 100 miles off the coast of Africa. They began to board the cruise ship.  Security Officer Michael Groves battled them off with a water hose, and the pirates responded with rocket propelled grenades and AK-47's.   Officer Groves' bravery and grit defeated the heavily armed pack of pirates, and the vessel's passengers and crew were saved.  The Queen of England honored Officer Groves with a medal for his bravery.

If you are interested in this story, I suggest reading "Bad Ass of the Week- Michael Groves."   

Although the story ended happily for the Seaborne Spirit's passengers who continued on with their luxury cruise, the fact of the matter is that the owners of the cruise ship (Carnival) had irresponsibly jeopardized the passengers and crew members by sailing into well know dangerous waters with an inadequate number of security personnel who were completely unarmed.  Carnival also treated Officer Groves, who himself was injured by the pirates, quite shabbily and refused to compensate him for his injuries.    

Pirate Attack Against the Balmoral - Security Guards with Fake Guns 

Earlier this year, pirates repeatedly attacked the cruise ship Balmoral. The cruise ship's security employees were obviously ill equipped to handle the attack.  The Sun newspaper reported that the security guards were forced to to fashion "gun-shaped weapons from pieces of wood in the hope of Cruise Ship Pirate Attack - Balmoraldeterring the attackers."

The newspaper reports that one passenger e-mailed a boyfriend about the attack: "I stood on the deck and watched through binoculars at men in the fishing boat armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket launchers. They were 300-400 metres away. Last night a lot of the passengers - many are in their 70s and 80s - were in tears and frightened to death." 

The passenger also commented: "the security have made guns from wood - like that's going to help!

Oasis of the Seas - A Pirate's  Dream? 

The risks of pirate attacks against cruise ships are so well known that even Saturday Night Live joked about Royal Caribbean's new mega-ship the Oasis of the Seas being attacked by pirates. The cruise community site Cruise Critic recently commented on Seth Meyer's cruise joke on the Weekend Update segment.

"The 20-story-tall Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, began her maiden voyage this Oasis of the Seas - Target of Pirates?week. Five times larger than the Titanic, it has seven neighborhoods, an ice rink, a golf course, a 750-seat outdoor amphitheater, and please say guns to fight off the pirates. No? No guns to fight off pirates? Well, enjoy your new boat, pirates!"

Unfortunately. there will be additional pirate attacks against cruise ships.  The Oasis of the Seas cost Royal Caribbean $1,500,000,000. If Royal Caribbean and the other cruise lines don't invest in reasonable security measures, such as additional security guards, weaponry, and anti-pirate devices, they will find themselves - like the Maersk Alabama - being served with lawsuits by injured passengers and crew members.

 

Credits:

Maersk Alabama       AP/Azim

Pirates Attacking the Balmoral       News Group Newspapers Ltd.

Seth Meyers               Saturday Night Live (via Cruise Critic)