Why the New Cruise Crime Disclosure Law is Necessary

There has been a lot of news coverage lately about Senator's Rockefeller's new cruise crime law. For the first time, the cruise lines will be forced to disclose the full range of assaults, rapes and other crimes which occur on cruise ships, and inform the public which cruise ships the crimes were the alleged crimes occurred.

The old law, which was part of the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA), included an attempt to compel the cruise lines to disclose all of this information four years ago. 

But the cruise industry altered the language at the last moment, inserting language requiring the Karan Seechurndisclosure of only those crimes opened by authorities and then subsequently closed.  

This language was an attempt to hide the crimes. The disturbing fact of the matter is that the FBI opens a minuscule number of investigations into crimes on cruise ships. The FBI testified at Congressional hearings which I attended that it opens only around 7% of crimes which are alleged to occur in the cruise industry. So by requiring the cruise crimes to be reported only when they are actually investigated and then closed, the cruise lines ensured that 93% of those crimes would never be revealed to the public.

This runaround was not lost on Senator Rockefeller. He vowed to fix the language before he retired. He was successful in improving the language so that the cruise lines have to report all crimes regardless of whether they are investigated or closed. This was the original intent of the CVSSA, so that the public can see which cruise ships have more crimes than others.

However, the cruise line's trade lobbying organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), claims that the amendments are not necessary. CLIA said in a press release:

"CLIA's position is that the new provision is unnecessary, because it largely duplicates information already available to the public . . . "

Is this true? Consider this example.

A number of newspapers recently announced that a mini-bar attendant entered a woman's cabin with a master key and molested her.  The FBI agent refused to identify the cruise line or the cruise ship in his arrest affidavit. All of the newspapers referred to the sexual assault as occurring on an "unidentified cruise line." As I explained in my prior article, FBI agents routinely do this as a favor to the cruise line which regularly hire former FBI officials to head up their security departments (like Royal Caribbean). Under the old law which is still in effect, because the FBI file had an open file on the crime, there is no requirement for the cruise line to disclose it. The crime will not appear on the Coast Guard database. The cruise line can hide it.

But a number of people contacted me on our Facebook page and explained that the only cruise line sailing out of Bayonne at the time was the Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas. I quickly found the crew member on his Facebook page, verified he worked for Royal Caribbean, and published his name in our story. There are a number of photographs which the crew member posted from his Facebook page and Google+. (One photo ironically shows him drinking a Corona while wearing a FBI shirt).  A number of other web sites then began reporting that the Quantum was the location of the alleged crime. It was only then, when the cat was out of the bad, that the cruise line decided to release a PR Karan Seechurnstatement stating that it had terminated the crew member.    

When the new law goes into effect, the cruise lines can't play such cat-and-mouse games. The FBI can't play hide-the-ball. The alleged crime has to be reported on a new Department of Transportation database. 

The new cruise law is absolutely necessary for the public to finally see the big picture of cruise ship crime. Crimes involving cabin attendants, room service attendants and mini-bar attendants entering cabins with master keys are hardly rare.

Last year CNN reported that of 959 crimes reported to the FBI since 2011, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Crimes occur with disturbing frequency on cruise ships. Isn't it time for cruise passengers to know?

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Google+

Cruise Line "Voluntary" Crime & Man-Overboard Disclosures: Royal Caribbean's Data Is Incomplete and Misleading

Senator RockefellerYesterday Royal Caribbean and a couple of other cruise lines "voluntarily" posted a limited amount of data on their websites regarding cruise crimes and disappearances of people from cruise ships.

Of course there was nothing remotely "voluntary" about the cruise lines' conduct.

Last week Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he introduced legislation intended to compel, under penalty of law, all of the CLIA cruise lines to divulge incidents of disappearances from cruise ships and theft, homicide and sexual assault on ships. On the day of the hearing, the president of Royal Caribbean, Adam Goldstein, announced that his cruise line, as well as Carnival and NCL, would agree to post crime data without the necessity of legislation.  Cruise executive Goldstein said that his cruise line would begin posting the crime and man overboard information on August 1st.

The cruise lines have been resisting and dodging disclosing truthful crime statistics over the course of the last 7 Congressional hearings I have attended. Cruise CEO Goldstein's new promises of transparency were made for PR purposes to try and stave off the tough legislation introduced by Senator Rockefeller. 

Senator Rockefeller is skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted to self-report accurate crime statistics. The Associated Press quoted Senator Rockefeller stating: “If we’re really going to make a difference for consumers, I believe it’s going to take legislative action to make sure this industry is required to give customers the information they need and deserve when they’re making a decision about taking a cruise."

The CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization, Ken Carver, is also skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted, The AP quoted Mr. Carver's belief that crimes reported by cruise lines are vastly lower than reality, because the initial investigations are handled by cruise line security personnel rather than law enforcement officials.

The skepticism by Senator Rockefeller and cruise victim advocate Carver is well founded. There is a well documented history of the cruise lines providing incomplete and misleading crime data to Congress and the American people. In some instances the information released by the major cruise lines is patently false.

In January 2007, the LA Times published an article looking into the problem of crime on cruise ships, entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters." The article points out that Congressman Shays previously called for Congressional hearings where he requested crime statistics from the cruise industry. The cruise lines resisted the legislation arguing that it can be trusted to provide honest information. At several points in the hearings, when cruise line representatives extolled their safety statistics, Congressman Shays seemed skeptical. "I do not think we have all of the statistics," he told representatives of major cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean informed Congressman Shays that 66 sexual assaults occurred over a three year Adam Goldstein Senate Hearrng Cruise Ship Crimeperiod on its cruise ships. However, in a case we handled against Royal Caribbean involving 12-year-old twins who alleged that a crew member molested them, the cruise line was forced to hand over the internal records requested by our firm after a judge threatened to fine it $1,000 a day if it failed to comply. 

The Royal Caribbean data revealed not just 66 incidents, but 273 reports from passengers who said they were victims of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period. The LA Times quoted me saying that Royal Caribbean "redefined things and in the process, magically, poof, what used to be a crime no longer existed. Then they served up these numbers and thought they could get away with it."

So with this history in mind, let's take a look at what Royal Caribbean just posted yesterday as part of its "voluntary" disclosure on its website.

It disclosed just three persons overboard for the time period beginning October 2010 through the end of June 2013. There is no information regarding these incidents on the cruise line's skimpy website chart. There is no way a consumer can understand what happened. One of the three incidents involved a young woman who went overboard in September 2012. You can read about in detail on our website here, here and here

What's even more troubling is that Royal Caribbean did not reveal that 8 other people went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the ships operated by its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises for the time period in question. Consider  the following man overboard incidents which occurred in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet:

January 2011 - Passenger disappeared from the Liberty of the Seas

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Grandeur of the Seas. 

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Constellation.

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Eclipse

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Millennium (see cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's database)

December 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Summit

January 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Monarch of the Seas. 

February 2012 - Passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas. 

September 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

October 2012 - Another crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's website indicates that the cruise line intends to reveal only those overboard situations involving U.S. citizens. But there is no reason to hide man overboard incidents involving passengers of other nationalities and crew members. Disney Cruise Line, for example, discloses overboard cases involving non-U.S. citizens.

The truth is that at least 11 people went overboard for the time period in question. But Royal Caribbean disclosed only 3 incidents. That's only around 27% of the true number.  If a cruise ship is a floating city, why exclude all of the crew members and non-U.S. citizens who are members of the city? Royal Caribbean includes crew members and non-U.S. passengers as part of its population in determining crime ratios, Allure of the Sea Crime Statisticsbut then excludes crew members and non U.S. citizens when they are victims. That manipulation of the data distorts the true crime ratios. 

The only explanation for doing this is that the cruise line wants to present an image that is markedly different from the truth. 

Royal Caribbean's "voluntary" disclosure reveals exactly why the cruise industry cannot be trusted. Senator Rockefeller, like Congressman Shays long ago, has every reason not to believe the cruise lines' "voluntary" statistics.

The American people and citizens of countries around the world deserve to know the truth about crime and overboard cruise passengers and crew members. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean like to keep the public in the dark.

A well drafted law with stiff penalties is the only way to shed light on what really happens on cruise ships far out at sea.