Disney Dream Child Molestation Case: Staff Captain Instructed Security Officer Not to Contact U.S. Law Authorities

After a 33 year-old Disney waiter molested an 11 year-old girl aboard the Disney Dream at the port of Cape Canaveral, the cruise ship's staff captain ordered a security officer not to contact local U.S. police officers or the FBI. 

That's what former Disney security officer Dawn Taplin told Orlando news station WKMG Local 6 in an interview which aired last night. WKMG reporter Mike DeForest conducted the interview.  

The Dream then left the U.S. port and sailed to Nassau where Disney flew the pervert back to his home in India.

According to the WKMG interview, Officer Taplin previously worked for the Palm Bay Police Department and Port Canaveral Police. Disney Cruise Child MolestationDisney recruited her to work for the family-oriented cruise line as a Security Officer. She was responsible for supervising 8 or 9 security guards. She was the first female security officer at Disney. 

In 2012 Officer Taplin was involved in the investigation of a child molestation case on the Disney Dream. An upset, crying 11 year-old girl told her that a 33 year-old Disney waiter followed her into an elevator and grabbed her breast and kissed her on the mouth. Officer Taplin reviewed surveillance video that confirmed the incident and wanted to call Port Canaveral police or her longtime contact with the FBI in Brevard County. However, Officer Taplin says that the cruise ship's staff captain ordered her not to report the crime. 

WKMG reported that the Disney Dream left Port Canaveral promptly at 5:02 p.m. with the victim and the molestation suspect still on board.

Officer Taplin told WKMG that "Disney waits on passengers' luggage . . . not setting sail on time. I remember waiting until 6:30 one time on somebody's luggage."

The Disney staff captain was not identified in the interview.  it will be interesting to determine his identity and find out whether he is still working on Disney cruise ships. It will also be interesting to learn whether the staff captain contacted Disney's shore-side risk management department about the crime before the cruise ship left the jurisdiction and determine whether the quick departure was approved by Disney's corporate management. Disney was quoted, when WKMG exposed the cover-up, saying that the ship handled the case properly. 

Image and video credit:  WKMG Local 6 (Orlando)

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

WKMG Local 6 (Orlando): "A Former Disney Cruise Officer Speaks Out"

Tonight an Orlando television station is airing an interview with a former Disney Cruise Line security officer about her experiences working aboard Disney cruise ships.

WKMG (Orlando) has released a short preview of the interview on a Facebook page. The program tonight is entitled "Exposed - Crimes Going Unreported."

The interview was conducted by WKMG reporter Mike DeForest. The Facebook page states:

"I speak exclusively with a former Disney Cruise Line Security Officer. She'll expose the Disney Cruise - Sexual Assaultcrime she saw while working on the inside, and share info you and your family need to know before sailing."

WKMG has been the leader in reporting on cases where Disney cruise line employees have sexually molested girls during cruises. 

Last year, WKMG reported on a 33 year old Disney waiter sexually assaulted an 11 year old girl. Even though the crime occurred at the port in Cape Canaveral in Florida waters, Disney refused to report it to U.S. law enforcement and sailed the cruise ship to the Bahamas where Disney flew the sexual predator back to India.

This year, a 36 year old Disney cabin attendant sexually molested a 13 year old girl aboard the Disney Dream.

Hopefully this former Disney security officer can shed some insight into the case where Disney refused to report the child molester to the police in the U.S. 

I will be posting the interviews when they become public. Update: Watch the complete video here: Disney Dream Child Molestation Case: Staff Captain Instructed Security Officer Not to Contact U.S. Law Authorities.

 

 

Terror Plot Against Israeli Cruise Pasengers Thwarted in Cyprus

Limassol Cyprus Cruise Ship Terror PlotNewspapers in Cyprus and Israel are reporting that security forces in Cyprus thwarted a planned terror attack against Israeli tourists.

Cypriot security forces seized a powerful explosive in the port of Limassol, local paper Alithia reported. The explosive was described as capable of causing "massive damage."

The newspapers state that the perpetrators intended to target Israeli tourists visiting on cruise ships to Cyprus which is a popular tourist destination for Israelis. 

Earlier this summer, Cyprus arrested a Lebanese man with links to Hezbollah who was planning attacks on Israelis in the country.  Israel has said the attacks were part of a concerted effort by Iran, which employs the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah as its proxy to target Israelis around the world.

No one in the U.S. seems to have reported on this story.

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about the targeting of cruise passengers by terrorists:

27 Years After Hijacking of Achille Lauro, Can Cruise Ships Keep Passengers Safe in the Middle East? 

In April I blogged about a plot where Arab terrorists envisioned hijacking a U.S. based cruise ship, forcing the passengers to wear orange Guantanamo-like jump suits and then videotaping their execution. 

There are numerous studies by security companies and U.S. governmental organizations which have Cruising for Trouble - Cruise Ship Terrorism studied terrorist organizations and concluded that terrorism against cruise ships is likely.

Take a look at this report by the RAND organization

The World Cruise Industry Review publication concluded that the most likely terrorist scenario is the hijacking of a cruise ship and its passengers: "A cruise ship is boarded and commandeered, while perpetrators hold and potentially injure or kill passengers if demands are not met – as in the Achille Lauro attack."

The issue has been written about by a number of experts, including Commander  Mark Gaouette who is the former director of security for Princess cruise line.  He wrote a book specifically addressing the issue of cruise ships as a target for terrorists.

 

Photo credit top: Cruise Time Tables

L.A. Times Weighs In On Cruise Crime Cover-Up

The L.A. Times is the latest major newspaper to discuss the behind-the-scenes alteration of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.  

In Drop in Cruise Ships' Reported Crimes Raises Questions written by Dan Weikel and an accompanying editorial Cruise ship crimes: Why so hush-hush? by Paul Morrison, the L.A. Times takes a look at the reporting of cruise ship crimes after the new cruise safety law came into effect. 

Designed to require greater transparency from the cruise lines in reporting shipboard crimes, the new cruise safety law was watered down to require the disclosure of only those alleged crimes which the cruise lines reported to the FBI and the FBI then closed.

This altered language was designed to cover up the majority of crimes on cruise ships.  Before the new Cruise Ship Crime Lawcruise safety law came into effect, the FBI was known for its disinterest in investigating crimes on cruise Cruise Ship Crime - Cruise Crime Lawships. For those few crimes it investigated, the FBI solved few of them.  It also seemed to never close their files even when in truth it was not doing anything to investigate the crimes.  By altering the language of the law, the cruise lines knew that it would keep the actual number of crimes under wraps.

The cruise lines deny that they were involved in the cover-up.  And so far Congressman Kerry's office (who was instrumental in passing the new law) is pointing to the FBI and Coast Guard as requesting the change.  Here's what the L.A. Times is saying:

"The FBI and the Coast Guard had asked Congress for wording that means, under the law, that the public only is allowed to be told about the number of closed cases that are no longer being investigated.

That’s just about 180 degrees opposite what law enforcement agencies do on land: All reported crimes are public record, not just those under investigation or resolved.

See how insidious such a policy can be?

If we heard only about the LAPD’s closed cases, nobody would have heard of the Black Dahlia, and the recent murders of two USC graduate students from China might not be public knowledge. Women in South L.A. wouldn’t have been told to be on alert for the "Teardrop Rapist," who has raped nearly three dozen women in the course of about 15 years, one as recently as last month.

This kind of result is hardly what a law called the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" sounds like it was meant to achieve. Turns out, the security and safety being protected here are the economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines."

The question at this point is not whether there was a behind-the-scenes cover-up, but who in addition to the FBI and Coast Guard were engaged in the cover-up.  Were the cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), involved?  Of course, but they would never admit it. But why would the FBI alone take such steps, which as the L.A. Times concludes, were designed to protect the "economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines" and not the passengers victimized on cruise ships?

With an industry known for its secrecy, it will take some time before the ugly truth comes out.  But it eventually will. The public will then see that the cruise lines and their CLIA representatives worked overtime with federal agencies against transparency. For the time being, they were successful in thwarting the democratic process and turning the cruise safety law into a joke. 

Sea Marshals on Cruise Ships? At Least in the Port of Los Angeles.

One of the proposals recommended by the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization is having "sea marshals" on cruise ships in order to protect passengers and respond to shipboard crimes.  

Sea Marshal - Los Angeles - Cruise Ship SecuritySince 9-11 the Federal government has placed "air marshals" on airplanes.  The ICV has attempted to ensure that cruise ships have the same level of security by supporting legislation in California requiring "sea marshals" on all cruise ships entering and departing cruise ports in that state. 

Unfortunately, the cruise industry fought against an independent police force on cruise ships. The typical argument is that state law enforcement have no jurisdiction over foreign flag cruise ships on international waters.  However, there is no question that states like California have jurisdiction to place sea marshals on cruise ships once the ships reach state waters to act as a police presence and to monitor environmental  activities.  Alaska has a very effective sea marshal program designed to monitor cruise ship waste water dumping. 

The port of Los Angeles already has a sea marshal program.  By all accounts it is successful and serves the valuable purpose of protecting passengers.  As explained in an article today "Marshals Defend Port of L.A." in the Contra Costa Times, the port of Los Angeles has six sea marshals, as well as an additional eight to 10 port police officers who are trained to join the team. The L.A. sea marshal program is seperate from the sea marshal program operated by the U.S. Coast Guard  which board vessels up to 12 miles offshore. 

The sea marshal program in L.A. is geared toward addressing vulnerabilities as cruise ships and cargo vessel head into and out of the harbor.  Sea marshals board cruise ships 3 miles from port.  They are armed.  They make sure that no one forces their way into the bridge to hijack the ship and uses it as a floating bomb or a battering ram,  just as al-Qaida terrorists forced their way into the cockpits of jetliners on 9-11. 

Sea marshals also inspect various areas of the cruise ship, look for explosives, drugs, suspicious activities, and coordinate underwater inspections by port police divers once Los Angeles Port - Sea Marshal - Cruise Passenger Safetythe cruise ships reach port.  They remain on the bridge, where they keep watch as the cruise ships sail out of the Port of Los Angeles.  They return to port once the vessels reach 3 miles offshore.

The newspaper interviewed John Holmes, the deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, who said: "Our most precious cargo at the port are our cruise passengers .  .  .  Anytime you get on a ship in Los Angeles and these guys come on board, I think it really gives people a sense of security."

It remains less than clear whether the sea marshals in Los Angeles have responsibility to handle reports of crime which occur at sea as the cruise ships sail back to California.  Undoubtedly, the local sea marshals can liason with the Los Angeles Port Police and the FBI.

Los Angeles has proven that a sea marshal program on a state level can work.  More ports and states need to follow Los Angeles's lead.

Mystery Continues Over Missing U.K. Cruise Passenger and Crewmember

In the past two months, two citizens from the United Kingdom have disappeared during cruises.  Disney crewmember Rebecca Coriam went missing from Disney's Wonder in March while the cruise ship was sailing from California to Mexico.  This month, U.K. passenger John Halford vanished from the Spirit cruise ship operated by Thomson Cruise Lines while the ship was approaching Egypt. 

Disappearances from cruise ships are an issue the cruise lines hate to talk about.  In an age where the shipping industry faces the risk of terrorism and pirates and there is a need to focus close attention on the rails of cruise ships to protect the passengers and crew, it is inexplicable that anyone can simply vanish into thin air during a cruise.  The fact that it happens raises two possibilities in my opinion:  The cruise ships have insufficient security personnel and an absence Rebecca Corian - Missing - Disney Wonder Cruise Ship of an effective closed circuit television (CCTV) apparatus to monitor who enter or exit (voluntarily or involuntarily) the ships.  Or, the cruise ships have adequate CCTV and security systems in place, but they are simply not being honest with the families about what happened to their loved ones.

In both cases, the families have gone public to state that their missing family members were happy and enjoying life.  In Rebecca Coriam's situation, the disappearance involved a popular and cheerful young woman, undoubtedly adored by her family and well liked by her friends, who enjoyed her job.  Our web site has received at least one comment from a Disney passenger who raved about Rebecca's wonderful skills at interacting with and entertaining the passenger's daughter.  

Mr. Halford's family describe their missing father in similar terms.  According to the Milton Keyes Citizen newspaper, Ruth Halford described her husband, John, like this: "He was happy, certainly not depressed, enjoying his cruise and meeting people but looking forward to getting home again to be with me and the children . . . "

The last known publicly disclosed facts about each disappearance leave room for speculation.  CCTV showed Rebecca speaking on the telephone in a public area the night before she went missing.  A search was not initiated until she did not appear for work until the next morning at 9:00 a.m.  Certainly there must be additional CCTV images if she went overboard from one of the decks.  Crew members obviously do not have private balconies.  Where is the CCTV of what happened?  Why didn't Rebecca's cabinmate or friends notice her missing earlier?

The last known facts about Mr. Halford indicate that he was last seen on board the cruise ship at 11:45 p.m. the night before he disappeared, drinking cocktails in the bar when the ship was approaching its final port, according to the Milton Keyes newspaper.  But when the ship reached port and the passengers were disembarking at 7:00 a.m., there was no trace of him. 

John Halford - Missing - Thompson Spirit Cruise Ship Did he end his own life?  That seems far fetched.  He was looking forward to his silver wedding anniversary in June and dearly loved his three children by all accounts.

The fact that there are two families grieving about these "mysteries" reflects poorly on the cruise industry.  It is inexcusable that no CCTV tape exists to reveal what happened, if in fact no CCTV tape exists. 

Ruth Halford tells her local newspaper:  “It’s terrible for the children. We are trying to cope together and not to give up hope but it is so difficult.”

“If anyone has seen him or knows what happened that night it would be so helpful. Not knowing is terrible and it is getting worse and worse by the day.”

If foul play was involved in either situation, the fact that a victim can "disappear" without a trace on a cruise raises profound questions about the issue of shipboard crime and whether the concept of "cruise ship justice" is at best an illusion.  If the disappearances involved accidents or intentional decisions to go overboard, the families deserve to know this and try and understand why this happened. 

They should not live a lifetime of doubt and speculation.  They are entitled to some sense of closure, if that is possible.

 

To contact the Coriam family, go to the family's website: Rebecca-Coriam.com

To read about other articles about Ms. Coriam, click here.

To contact the police in Mr. Halford's case, please call 845 8 505 (country code 41).

To read other cases about Mr. Halford, click here.

MSNBC Reports: "Staying Safe on the High Seas"

Christopher Elliott - MSNBC - National Geographic - Cruise TravelMSNBC has an interesting article today by travel columnist, Christopher Elliott, entitled Staying Safe on the High Seas.  

Mr. Elliott reports on the new cruise ship security and safety law signed by President Obama, the problem of sexual assaults, noro-virus, and medical facilities aboard cruise ships.

The article quoted me saying that:

"The last place you want to become ill or injured is on a cruise ship far away from a U.S. port.  Cruise ship medical care is limited. Ship doctors are usually from foreign medical schools. The shipboard facilities are often inadequate and the medical care is sub-standard.”

Its an interesting article that every passenger should read before setting sail with their family.

 

Christopher Elliott is a travel columnist, a msnbc.com contributor, and the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine.  You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream

Last year I wrote a blog entitled "Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships" addressing the increasing violence on cruise ships.  I posted the following comments and questions: 

"Complicating matters is the huge amount of alcohol which the cruise lines sell to the passengers, which often leads to drunken brawls in the bars and discos and sometimes around the pools. It will be interesting to see how Carnival and the other cruise lines handle the "wider audience" flocking onto the larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and "stuff happens," what steps are they taking to protect U.S. families?

Will the cruise lines elect to hire a full complement of well trained and experienced Carnival Cruise Ship - Violence - Alcoholsecurity guards?  Or will they continue to try and save money with only 2 or 3 inexperienced "guards" trying to protect 2,000 or 3,000 passengers?"

Well, the answers to these questions may be found in YouTube videos which have surfaced regarding a brawl which broke out in the Caliente Club on Carnival's Dream cruise ship three weeks ago.

The August 12th fight was widely reported by the news media, including Professor's Ross Klein's Cruise Junkie which contained the following account from a passenger: 

"We were on the Carnival Dream sailing 08/07 to 08/14 and heard that a brawl broke out in the dance club around 3:00 a.m. on the morning of the 12th. We heard from passengers and a bartender that the brawl started over a song. It involved so many young people (men and women) that the security on board was unable to handle everyone and had to call in assistance from wait staff and other crew members. The fight spilled over into the art gallery located next door and apparently a $10K painting was ruined with blood spatter. Flat screen tvs were smashed and there was a lot of damage done. We heard that people on the ground were getting kicked in the head by men and women and that one person needed to be revived because he was hurt so badly. We also heard that the crowd spilled out of the dance club and that innocent people were getting punched in the face as they were walking by.

The next morning in Costa Maya there were a bunch of people (10 people) sitting by the side of the ship with all of their luggage as they were kicked off the ship and their relatives were shipped off to Mexican jails. Carnival needs to learn a lesson here and not serve alcohol after a certain time and perhaps shut down the 18+ dance club before 3:00 a.m. Nothing good can come of drunk teenagers at 3:00 in the morning."

An article in Florida Today "10 Cruise Passengers Evicted After Brawl" contained a rather understated PR statement by Carnival:

"A fight occurred on the vessel. It was broken up by ship's security and the cause of the fight was investigated which resulted in 10 guests being disembarked in Mexico . . .  The safety and security of our guests and crew is of utmost importance and we will not tolerate behavior that could put any of them at risk."

Carnival has a problem with way too much alcohol served on their cruise ships and way too few security guards to handle the unruly drunks.  Here are two videos of the fight.  

 

 

 

 

 

Video credits:    i008 YouTube

Photo credit:      Szymek S.'s Flickr photostream

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act - Finally Making Waves

The Washington Post has published an article about the new Cruise Security and Safety Act, written by veteran travel writer Christopher Eliott.  Mr. Elliott is a a travel consultant for MSNBC and a writer for National Geographic Traveler magazine and for the Consumer Travel Alliance.

The article was originally entitled " A Long Way To Go To Ensure Passengers' Safety On Cruise Ships."  The article has been widely re-printed in newspapers across the U.S.  The article below is a re-print bearing the new title " Finally Making Waves About Cruise Security."

The article contains some quotes from me, my client Laurie Dishman, the President of the International Cruise Victims association Ken Carver, and the President and Founder of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network Scott Berkowitz.  Here is the article, unedited, which appeared in the Houston Chronicle newspaper:

Finally Making Waves About Cruise Security    

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act - Cruise Crime Maybe you don't think of a floating vacation as a dangerous activity — after all, the last headline-grabbing sinking of a cruise liner was that of the MS Sea Diamond, which ran aground in 2007 near Santorini, Greece; two passengers disappeared and were presumed dead.  The cruise industry also contends that it has an outstanding safety record when it comes to onboard crimes such as theft and assaults.

Just one little problem: The federal government doesn't require cruise lines to report these crimes in a meaningful and systematic way, so we have to take them at their word. And some passengers don't.

Laurie Dishman counts herself among them.  She alleges that a janitor on a Royal Caribbean cruise raped her in 2006.

"I felt humiliated," the marketing director for a winery near Sacramento told a congressional hearing the following year.  "I could not believe what had happened."  Dishman's riveting testimony exposed the shortcomings of cruise ship security, prompting her representative, Doris Matsui, D-Calif., to sponsor the new legislation.  "It became grossly apparent that current law was not protecting American passengers while at sea," said Mara Lee, a spokeswoman for Matsui.

The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act will address that problem by requiring cruise lines to report crimes promptly to the FBI and to post a link on their Web sites to a Transportation Department website listing crimes that have occurred on cruise ships.

"This will be the first time in the history of the cruise industry when a cruise ship is required to report a crime in international waters," said James Walker, a maritime lawyer based in Miami.  "The public can finally see the criminal database and determine which cruise ships have the highest crime rates."

Watch for more peepholes

Cruise lines will have to install peepholes in cabin doors and raise guard rails on many ships, and add on-deck video surveillance and an emergency sound system on all new ones.  The legislation also mandates better crime-scene response by requiring ships to carry rape kits and anti-retroviral medications and to have a trained forensic sexual assault specialist on board.

"In effect, passengers on cruise ships will start to obtain the same protection they would expect if they were at a resort here in the United States," said Ken Carver, the chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association, which advocates for victims of crimes at sea.

This law is undoubtedly a good start at regulating a business that has skirted many government regulations in the past. But is it enough?

I asked the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) about the measure, and the trade association sent me a surprisingly supportive prepared statement.  This regulation, it said, would bring "greater consistency and clarification to many industry practices and existing regulations," which include current requirements to report serious crimes to the FBI.

"The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA's number one priority," it added.

When I hear a trade organization that resisted this law nearly every step of the way talking like that, I can't help being a little skeptical.  (The cruise industry insists it cooperated.) So I asked Alexander Anolik, a former lawyer for several cruise lines who now practices in San Francisco, whether the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act holds water.

"It will make cruising safer," he said. "But it doesn't go far enough."

Safety at seaside

He'd like to see higher ship rails, for example. The law will require them to reach 42 inches above the deck, but they'd prevent more passengers from falling overboard if they were 54 inches.

Also, Anolik says the law should make more ships retrofit their cabins with essential safety features such as peepholes, security latches and time-sensitive key technology.

Anolik said cruise lines are probably unhappy with the legislation because, in his experience, they try to "make sure every crime is hidden."

It's hard for me to tell whether CLIA is being a dignified loser or whether it got some important concessions when the bill was being marked up. It probably doesn't matter.  Advocates for passengers see this as an important first step in improving cruise ship safety — not the last port of call.

Scott Berkowitz, the president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which supports the measure, said that he'd like future legislation to address legal jurisdiction when a crime is committed on a cruise ship.  "This can result in huge practical barriers to prosecution, such as requirements that the victim travel to another country — at his or her own expense — several times for hearings and a trial," he said.

But the law represents a critical and essential step forward, and Dishman says it will help others like her.

"If this law was in place when I was brutally raped, there would have been evidence for a prosecution and the assailant who raped me would not be free," she told me.

Royal Caribbean has said it has a "zero-tolerance policy regarding any criminal activity" on its ships, adding, "Any allegation of a crime is treated seriously and reported to law enforcement." The company reportedly settled a lawsuit with Dishman in 2008.

Still, cruise experts agree, laws can go only so far in protecting you.  Passengers should continue to pack their common sense when they go cruising, which includes taking practical steps such as securing valuables, drinking in moderation and staying away from a ship's dark corners.

Even with these new measures in place, and the possibility of future regulation, one thing seems certain: Just because the ship isn't sinking doesn't mean that it's safe.

 

Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and for the Consumer Travel Alliance, a new nonprofit education organization. His e-mail: celliott@ngs.org
 

Credits:

Article               Christopher Eliott, Washington Post,  Houston Chronicle

Photo                jimg944 Flickr photostream

A Cruise Defense Lawyer's Summary of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

Ever since the Senate and House passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, the cruise industry and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which spent millions of dollars vigorously opposing the new legislation, have minimized the ground-breaking new law. 

UK P & I Club - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act - Cruise Crime  So it was to my great interest and amusement today when a Cruise Law News (CLN) reader sent me a link to an article summarizing the new cruise law by a prominent defense lawyer for the cruise line industry.  California lawyer Lawrence Kaye authored an article entitled "Tough New US Regulations for Cruise Ships" in the UK P & I Club's newsletter.  (P & I Underwriters insure the interests of cruise lines and shipping companies).

What makes this article so interesting is that Mr. Kaye is one of the executive members of CLIA and testified before our U.S. Congress during the cruise crime hearings from 2005 - 2009.  He argued that there was no need for legislation and he advocated on behalf of CLIA to kill the crime bill. 

Mr. Kaye is one smart maritime lawyer.  We have argued cruise crime issues on television.  The cruise lines are lucky to have him as their advocate. He is equally skilled in summarizing the new law, which I have re-printed verbatim from the UK P & I Club's website, lest someone decide to delete it:

Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act 

Lawrence Kaye - Cruise Vessel Security and Safet Act  The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act 2010, due to become US law very shortly, imposes substantial requirements on cruise ships carrying over 250 passengers on international voyages which embark or disembark passengers in any US port. They concern design and construction, medical facilities, passenger and crew information, training and measures to report and combat crime.

Non-compliance can result in denial of entry into US ports, civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and/or one year’s imprisonment.

The Act’s requirements are set out by Lawrence W. Kaye and Andre M. Picciurro of Kaye, Rose & Partners in the latest issue of US Bodily Injury News, Published by Thomas Miller (Americas) on behalf of the UK P&I Club.

Design and construction standards. All cruise ships must meet certain design and construction standards within 18 months of enactment. Rails must be 42 inches above the cabin deck, 2.5 inches more than the US Coast Guard’s existing requirement. Passenger and crew cabin doors must have a “means of visual identification,” such as peepholes. Ships must be equipped with technology, if available, to detect persons fallen overboard, and with a video surveillance system to document crimes. In certain high risk areas, ships must have acoustic hailing and warning devices. All new-build cruise ships must provide latches and time-sensitive key technology on all passenger and crew cabin doors.

Information. Cruise ships must provide passengers and crew with a list of all US embassies and consulates in the countries they visit. Congress is discussing whether ships should provide all Cruise Safety - Cruise Ship Security - Cruise Lawpassengers with lists of medical and security personnel and law enforcement agencies in the jurisdictions visited.

Sexual assaults. For treating and examining persons alleging sexual assault, the Act requires cruise ships to have on board medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., anti-retroviral medications); equipment and materials for performing post-assault examinations; and doctors and/or registered nurses with appropriate experience/certification in emergency medicine.

Cruise lines should make available to the patient a confidential examination report, with cruise ship personnel only entitled to see findings which will assist the master or colleague to comply with safety and reporting laws; contact information for law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, US embassies and consulates; a third party victim advocacy hotline; and private telephone and computer access to contact law enforcement, attorneys or support services. Ships must implement regulations about which crew members have access to passenger staterooms and when.

Log book and crime reporting. Ships must keep a log book (electronic or otherwise), detailing complaints of homicide, suspicious death, missing US nationals, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, sexual assault, firing or tampering with the vessel, and theft of property over $1,000. Ships must notify the nearest FBI office and send a report to the Secretary of Transportation about all such crimes (except for theft of property less than $10,000) in specific circumstances. These include where a vessel owner, regardless of his ship’s flag, is a US citizen; where an incident occurs within US territorial waters or on the high seas but involving a US national, whether victim or perpetrator; and where a US national is involved if a voyage embarks or disembarks passengers in the US, regardless of where the incident occurred.

The Transportation Secretary will maintain a public website to keep track of all such reported crimes for each cruise line whose own websites must provide a link to the Secretary’s.

Crime scene preservation. The Transportation Secretary is obliged to develop training standards and curricula for certification of passenger vessel security personnel, focusing “on the appropriate methods for prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment” within one year of enactment. Two years after such standards and curricula are established, cruise ships may only enter US ports if they have at least one certificated crew member on board.

Cruise Ship - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

Larry Kaye has no doubt that this legislation is “a priority item for passenger ship operators. Upon enactment, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act will immediately address the issues of crimes and missing persons on cruise ships by imposing medical care and security protocols on cruise operators. It also imposes a rigorous timetable for a wide range of mandatory design and operational improvements to those ships within a two-year period.”

Louise Livingston, who leads Thomas Miller (America’s) Bodily Injury Team, added: “This review of the latest legislative developments for cruise operators has widespread relevance. All UK Club members should be aware of the speed and extent of regulatory change that can arise from a combination of high profile incidents and the political lobbying that is associated with them.”

 

Credits:

UK P & I Club                    UK P & I Club

Larry Kaye, Esq.              Kaye Rose & Partners LLP

Freedom of the Seas    greenbriar DemocraticUnderground.com 

Are Cruise Ships Equipped To Handle Bomb Threats On The High Seas?

The local news media is reporting that Royal Caribbean recently received a bomb threat aboard the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.

According to a news release by the U.S. Coast Guard, Royal Caribbean's reservation center in Wichita, Kansas received a call reporting a bomb aboard the cruise ship around 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 15th.  Crew members searched the ship but did not find anything.  The Liberty of the Seas proceeded on with the cruise and arrived back in Miami around 6:00 a.m. the next morning.  FBI, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection agents then boarded the cruise Liberty of the Seas - Bomb Threatship to look for explosives, but they did not find anything. 

There have been a number of bomb threat hoaxes recently.  Perhaps the most publicized one was when a passenger from Virginia named Ibrahim Khalil Zarou who was reportedly quite intoxicated - Bomb Hoax Gets Drunken Carnival Cruise Passenger Arrested

Fortunately, these bomb threats turned out to be hoaxes.  But what if they were real

In this most recent bomb threat, the FBI and other federal agencies did not board the cruise ship until eleven hours later. 

Are cruise lines equipped to handle a real terrorist threat on the high seas?  Most cruise lines have as few as 2 or 3 security guards on duty at night and some lines do not monitor their surveillance cameras (except in the casinos).   Is this adequate security for 3,000 to 4,000 passengers and crew?

Our experience suggests that the few security personnel on cruise ships have a difficult enough time deterring or responding to bar fights between drunken passengers.  A real terrorist threat on the high seas will pose a real problem to the cruise industry. 

For additional information, please read:

Terror on the High Seas

CBP Will Study Costs of Requiring Cruise Ships to Hand Over Their Passenger Reservation Data

 

Credits

Liberty of the Seas photograph           News 7 Miami

"Cruising for Trouble" - Cruise Ships as Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals

Today I returned to work after a week's "Spring Break" vacation to find a recently published cruise line security book sitting on top of a large pile of pleadings on my desk. 

Cruising for Trouble - Mark Gaoutte - Pirates, Terrorists, Criminals"Cruising for Trouble" is written by Commander Mark Gaouette, the former Director of Security for Princess Cruises and Cunard Cruise Lines.  His book addresses security challenges facing the cruise industry and its history of overboard passengers, sexual assaults and unsolved crimes. 

Commander Gaouette has been deeply involved in protecting the security interests of the U.S. Government and the U.S. Navy.  He is a former Special Agent with the U.S. Department of State’s prestigious Bureau of Diplomatic Security.  During his career, he served as a Regional Security Officer at five high-threat U.S. Embassies including Moscow (Russia), and Beirut (Lebanon).  Mark Gaouette has extensive maritime experience with the U.S. Navy and served as a Surface Line Officer and as a Naval Intelligence Officer in the U.S Naval Reserve.

The preface to the book was written by Ken Carver, President of the International Cruise Victims organization:

"Commander Mark Gaouette USNR (Ret.) reveals to cruise passengers the very real security dangers they unwittingly face when they saunter up the gangway of a cruise ship for a carefree holiday.  He sounds a clarion call to national and transnational security agencies, maritime regulators, legislators, and customers to compel the cruise industry to strengthen and reform its security programs before catastrophe strikes.  The author, a longtime cruise industry insider who now serves as a top maritime security official in the Department of Homeland Security, details the many security defects and vulnerabilities of cruise ships, identifies the remedies, and makes the case for their urgent implementation.

Extensively documented and illustrated, "Cruising for Trouble" is a vividly told cautionary for the ten million Americans who take cruise-ship vacations each year and the millions more who would like to.  As well as modeling the potential threats to cruise ships from pirates and maritime terrorists - who mimic each other's methods, overlap each other's territories, and might well find it mutually beneficial to combine their forces and resources - Commander Gaouette recounts many actual examples of cruise-ship insecurities that have been swept under the carpet or or spun by the cruise industry: pirate attacks, fires, onboard crime, and the mysterious disappearances of cruise-ship passengers."

I also had an opportunity to critique the book.  My comments are published on the back cover.

"Cruising for Trouble" is available at the Greenwood Publishing Group and on Amazon

 

Cruising for Trouble - Mark Gaouette - Pirates, Terrorists, Criminals

Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships

Paul Ash, who writes columns for the Times Live in Johannesburg under the name "The Wanderer," addresses the issue of violence by cruise passengers in an interesting article entitled "Punch-Ups and Brawls on Cruise Ships: Whose Fault is it Anyway?"

The article mentions what is described as a "mini-rampage" on the P&O cruise ship Ventura while the ship was at sea. Also mentioned is the brawl between six Carnival passengers who punched, scratched and bit it out with police in Antigua over a dispute with a taxi driver over, depending on who you believe, either a $50 or $100 taxi fare.

Mr. Ash's article raises a couple of interesting issues. 

Are cruise lines inviting rowdier crowds on board with discount tickets?  And what happens when, as Mr. Ash puts it, "the happy and careless rich collide with the hungry and resentful poor?"

One of the subscribers to this blog commented on an earlier article about the danger presented when vacationing families intersect with the hard partying younger crowd who are enticed to cruise with the lure of cheap three-day booze cruises. I compare the situation to going on a cruise with Kid Rock - I love his music but I wouldn't want to take my family on a cruise with his posse partying next door. 

As reported by Mr. Ash, a BBC2 television host Jeremy Vine recently questioned Carnival CEO Micky Arison about this problem of violence associated with cheap cruise tickets and a more diverse group of passengers.

“Cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.”

The "wider audience" will undoubtedly include a younger crowd from a different demographic, including what I call the hard partying "Bud Light - tank top" crowd.

Mr. Ash concludes his article with the following thought: 

"I can’t think anything I’d rather less do than go on holiday with five thousand three hundred and ninety-nine other people. Imagine the rush for the boats – or taxis – during shore excursions. Imagine the stress of finding a space by the pool. Or queuing for dinner. One may as well go to the Med and scrap with the Russians and Germans for sun loungers. No wonder people get punchy. Who wouldn’t?"

Complicating matters is the huge amount of alcohol which the cruise lines sell to the passengers, which often leads to drunken brawls in the bar and discos and sometimes around the pools. It will be interesting to see how Carnival and the other cruise lines handle the "wider audience" flocking onto the larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and "stuff happens," what steps are they taking to protect U.S. families?

Will the cruise lines elect to hire a full complement of well trained and experienced security guards?  Or will they continue to try and save money with only 2 or 3 inexperienced "guards" trying to protect 2,000 or 3,000 passengers?